This is the next post in a series of articles discussing how a child’s preferences about living arrangements may impact custody matters in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous post provided an overview of the topics to be discussed throughout this series. It also encouraged fathers, who are concerned about child custody and visitation rights, to contact an attorney quickly in order to understand their rights and responsibilities. In this article, I will address a common question I receive from my clients: “At what age can a child refuse visitation with their parent?” It is not uncommon for Las Vegas dads to delay legal action in custody matters over concerns about this issue. This article will explore the answer to this question generally, however, fathers should consult with a lawyer to obtain specific legal advice applicable to their situation. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with an attorney.
The simple answer to the question posed above is that there is no magic age at which the Clark County Family Court will blindly defer to the preferences of a minor when determining matters of custody and visitation. Rather, depending upon the age and maturity of the child, their input may be considered as part of a multi-factor analysis used in the Judge’s decision-making process. As with other Court-imposed decisions related to parental rights, the Judge will make every effort to order an arrangement that is in the child’s best interest. For obvious reasons, the opinion of an older child or teenager may receive more consideration than that of a small child, whose input is rarely a factor in the Judge’s review. If an older teenager, for example, is insistent that she live primarily in her mother’s household and visit her father on weekends, and her reasoning is intelligent, rational, and mature, the Court may honor that wish. On the other hand, if the court determines that her choice was driven by immaturity, parental pressure, or is otherwise against her best interests, it may be disregarded. In either case, absent extenuating circumstances, the Court will generally continue to impose visitation requirements to preserve the other parent’s rights.
Consider the following examples. A sixteen year old girl whose mom has primary custody, is required to visit her father every other weekend from Friday to Sunday night. Dad lives 90 minutes away from her mom’s house. To save for her first car, she gets a job at a restaurant within walking distance of her mom’s house and works every Saturday and Sunday. Her mom asks the Court to revise their visitation order after several disagreements with her father over visitation scheduling. In this situation, the Court may consider the daughter’s opinion in its evaluation given her age and responsible decision-making ability. The Court may order a different visitation schedule, perhaps based on the daughter’s discretion to visit when convenient. Now suppose, the same child refuses to visit her father so that she can spend every weekend with her new boyfriend. The girl’s mother stops complying with the visitation schedule to placate her daughter. In this case, the Judge will likely view the basis for the child’s preference as irresponsible, immature, and potentially dangerous. As a result, her desire to skip visits may be disregarded and the original schedule enforced.
Custody and visitation are among the most emotional and hotly disputed issues in family law. This is especially true in cases involving older children whose opinion may be considered in the ultimate resolution. It is important to understand that a child’s preference is one of many factors a Judge will evaluate. A Las Vegas fathers’ rights lawyer can help you understand how to enforce your rights. If you need assistance, contact my office today to schedule a consultation.