A Georgia child over age 14 has the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live (O.C.G.A. Section 19-9-3(a)(5)), although the judge can overrule the child’s selection if the judge finds the child’s choice not to be in the best interests of the child. What if a child over age 14 wishes not to visit with the noncustodial parent?
The Georgia Supreme Court, in the case of Worley v. Whiddon, 261 Ga. 218, confirmed that since visitation is part of custody, the wishes of a 14 year old regarding visitation are important. But the trial court still has authority to set visitation rights based on the best interests of the child, including not only the child’s wishes but also other factors.
Court has supervisory power over child’s decision
The court essentially has supervisory power over a 14 year old’s decision not to visit the noncustodial parent. This supervisory power protects both the child and the noncustodial parent from coercion by the custodial parent.
As a practical matter, if you have a child over age 14 who wants not to visit the noncustodial parent, you should file a petition to modify visitation if you support the child’s decision. Otherwise, you could be subject to a contempt action regarding visitation.
If you are a noncustodial parent whose child does not want to visit you, your course of action may depend on whether you believe the child is making an independent judgment or acting under coercive influence of the custodial parent. Counseling involving the child and the noncustodial parent can be of assistance in navigating conflict that interferes with positive visitation experiences. Optimally, the parties and the child together decide on terms of a modification that takes the child’s wishes into consideration and continues contact with the noncustodial parent.
Parents who rigidly enforce their schedule and other “rights” without consideration of their child’s wishes or feelings are making a mistake. As a child nears adulthood, each parent must begin to navigate their relationship with their child independently of the other parent and the court’s enforcement powers.
Hindson and Melton LLC can assist you in evaluating your best course of action. We represent both mothers and fathers.
© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC February 4, 2014