Enforcing Visitation When the Children Refuse: What’s a Parent to Do?

The recent case of Noojin v. Noojin, decided by the South Carolina Court of Appeals in July 2016 provides guidelines for custodial parents whose child is protesting visitation with the non-custodial parent.

The mother in Noojin was found to be in contempt of court for failing to facilitate visitation with the children’s father and acquiescing to the children’s refusal to participate in visitation. In Noojin, the father had made repeated requests for visitation with the children, to which the mother had responded that she would “never support forcing time with you against their will.” Mother did not assist father in scheduling visitations for the parties’ 12 year old son and acted in various ways to thwart father’s requests for visits and dinners with the children. Mother also communicated to the children the “idea that they did not have to visit with Father if they did not want to.” Mother had also failed to give consequences for the children’s behavior toward father, and that this further estranged the children from Father.

The Court of Appeals found mother’s actions constituted a willful violation of the Court’s Order and found her in contempt of court.

The Court further found cases from other jurisdictions to be instructive with regard to the notion that “in the absence of psychological or physical harm,” refusing to force an unwilling child to engage in visitation against the child’s wishes could be a basis for a finding of contempt and that the custodial parent “must do more than merely encourage the minor children to visit” the non-custodial parent. The Court instructed that each case must be considered on an individual basis and explicitly stated that “we … do not suggest that in every situation in which a custodial parent fails to force a child to visit a noncustodial parent, such custodial parent should be held in contempt.”

Nonetheless, the Noojin case is an important development and consideration for custodial parents whose children are refusing to visit the other parent.

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