No matter how hard you try, your children will always be in the middle of a divorce. Regardless of what you tell them or why you’re breaking up with your spouse, the situation is going to affect them deeply for many years to come, and often children feel responsible for a breakup of their parents. This weight of responsibility can make their behavior change, and it can cause them to act out and misbehave in ways parents have never seen before. Sometimes, one of these ways is refusing to see the parent they find responsible, which is often the father.

Kids will ask, “Do I HAVE to see my dad?” and that question can be very confusing for both parents. On one hand, you don’t want to force your child to do anything they do not want to do when it comes to a divorce, but on the other, sometimes the law is the law and must be followed.

For example, if you have a reason to fear for your child in any way – if they came back with fresh bruises – then you have every right to withhold visitation. In addition, if the father of your children is being reckless, erratic, or seems mentally jarred, you can also withhold visitation rights. Generally speaking, however, children don’t get a say in visitation rights until they are fourteen years of age in California courts.

If your child is simply expressing how he or she feels about the situation, and seems to indicate that seeing your ex is simply unpleasant or boring, then it’s always best to follow court-ordered visitation or shared custody rights. Your children will not suffer ill consequences if you do not follow the court order – you will. You can be held in contempt of the court if you do not have a good reason for withholding visitation. While this can be particularly painful, especially when your child is still angry and upset at the situation, it’s still your job to make sure visitation happens.

A child is exactly that: a child. This is how a court in California would see them, and this is how you should see them, too. The ability to make sound, rational decisions don’t always exist in a ten or fifteen, especially when feelings are hurt and a child favors one parent over another.

Of course, whether you should disregard a court order is completely up to you, but do not make the decision lightly. There are some circumstances in which a child should not go, but make sure that is one of those situations, and it doesn’t have anything to do with hurt feelings on your side, the father’s side, or your child’s side. If necessary, don’t forget to consult a custody attorney – they can give excellent advice on the matter, and you may need one if you decide that being held in contempt of the court is worth protecting your child. Otherwise, send them along – they will probably appreciate it later.