After your divorce, the court awarded joint legal custody of your six-year-old daughter to you and your ex. It was agreed that your former spouse would have sole physical custody while your daughter visited you every other weekend and had one weekday overnight on Wednesday nights.

This arrangement worked for nearly ten years. Now your daughter is 15 and doesn’t appear to want to spend as much time with you. She’s at the mall with her friends every weekend. What are your rights in this situation? Can she refuse visitation? Is your ex obligated to make her go?

When children become teenagers, it’s normal for them to want to control their own schedules, which includes how often they see their nonresidential parent. If your ex is failing to send your daughter for her weekly visitation, then it’s probably because they don’t think they should force her to do something she doesn’t want to do.

Your daughter may be acting like a typical teenager, but until she turns 18, her choices are not a deciding factor in a custody arrangement. Your ex has an obligation to send her to visit you on the scheduled days until a court says otherwise.

Modifying a child custody arrangement

When New York courts create visitation schedules, the goal is to give a nonresidential parent regular contact with their children, so that a loving and meaningful relationship can be maintained. When young children grow into teenagers and start spending more time doing homework and hanging out with their friends, the visitation schedule that worked at the time of divorce may no longer be feasible.

Sometimes it is the parent whose circumstances change. A custodial parent may want to move out of state to pursue a career opportunity, or a nonresidential military parent could be deployed overseas for a year. When this happens, you should engage a New York family law attorney to help you modify the original custody order.

Modifications don’t have to be complicated. You will have to show the court that circumstances have changed since the order was issued and that a new arrangement is in your daughter’s best interests. If years have passed since the divorce, then the judge will almost certainly approve a reasonable modification. On the other hand, if your ex disagrees with your proposed changes, then the court will need some extra time to weigh all options before making a decision.

Contact a New York family law attorney

When a visitation schedule is no longer feasible or in your child’s best interests, a New York family law attorney can help you pursue the changes that let you spend as much time as possible with your daughter while she grows up. Jayson Lutzky has helped many clients over the past 36+ years as a divorce and family law attorney. He has an office in the Bronx, New York and offers free consultations. You may reach his office at 718-514-6619.