Making children go with dad

When my ex shows up to get children for visitation, they say they are not going and hide in their rooms. What is my responsibility? Do I have to physically force them to go? They are 8 and 10 years old. Do I have to let ex in the house? He comes in and gets mad with me when they refuse to go, has threatened to call the police. What am I required to do?

You have a responsibility to make sure that you follow the court order or separation agreement terms regarding custody and visitation. You do not want to give the father reason to file a contempt motion or breach of contract lawsuit against you. You should have the children ready and available to visit with their dad at the specified times and should do your best to make the children go with their dad. You can physically force them to go, but do not do so in a way to cause harm or pain to them.

Try to determine why the children are so adamant about not going with their father. You may need to have the custody/visitation order or agreement modified depending on the reason(s).

You do not have to let the father into your house unless your court order or separation agreement states otherwise. Also, there isn’t much the police are authorized to do when it comes to enforcing custody and visitation other than to calm an escalated situation. Rather, custody and visitation are enforced by judges and the courts.

Piggybacking here – my daughter is 14. We have an informal arrangement with no signed separation agreement and no divorce decree or custody order that she goes to her father’s every other weekend. For the past few months, he has been texting her a few days before and asking if she wants to come over. She says that she does not (he is extremely verbally abusive). He agrees that she won’t visit. I am not involved in these discussions at all.

My lawyer says that I am in the clear, but your answer to the OP seems to say that I should be doing more to make her go. What if this pattern continues after there is a legal order? Will I be in contempt if she says she doesn’t want to go and he accepts that?

I would agree that you are “in the clear” based on what you’ve provided. The difference is that you do not have a court order or separation agreement addressing visitation. Therefore, you have no court ordered obligation or contractual duty to ensure that your daughter visits with her father.

If you or the father files a custody action against the other, a court order results, and the pattern you described continued, you would then have a duty to follow the visitation outlined in the court order. Since you know about the verbal abuse, you would likely put on evidence and testimony in a custody trial about that problem before the judge makes his/her decision.

If you had a court order that stated the father was to have a specific visitation time with your daughter and he chose on his own free will not to exercise that, you would not be in contempt.

“you would then have a duty to follow the visitation outlined in the court order”

How far does that duty extend? Do I have to somehow force her to say yes when he asks if she wants to come over?

And is it considered to be of his own free will when she says she does not want to visit and he abides by that? I am not involved in these discussions at all. Honestly, I’m happy that she doesn’t have to see him, but I also think that as a parent, it’s up to him to say “sorry you don’t want to, but it’s my scheduled time and I’ll pick you up at 11”. She’s a teenager; I override her don’t-want-to fairly often.

If you had a court order that stated when the father was to have visitation time with your daughter, you would need to do your very best to make sure that order was followed. For example, you would need to make sure your daughter is available for the visitation and not out with friends at the time the father is supposed to pick her up. Of course, the older children get, the harder it is to force them to do anything they are not interested in. You would not have to force your daughter to say “yes” to visitations - visitation time is ultimately not up to the minor child.

Yes, if the father had court-ordered visitation and he decided not to exercise it, then he would be making that decision on his own free will.

Note that to be held in contempt for not following a court order, there must be a willful violation: you had the ability to comply and you intentionally failed to do so.