Should I force teenage my kids to visit their mom?

Client Question: I have three teenage children ages 13, 15, 17 who have been living with me in Arizona for about 5 years. The two older kids refuse to go visit their mom in Payson. Can I let them stay with me even though the court order says they have to visit?

Answer: By Arizona statute, a child who is 12 or older is entitled to be heard by the court on an issue concerning custody or parenting time. An attorney must file a motion letting the court know the child wishes to be heard, and the judge doesn’t have to grant what the child asks. Now, realistically, if your 15 and 17 year old don’t want to visit their mother, it’s not likely the court will force them to go. However, depending on the details of the circumstances the answer may be different. The other issue is whether to bother filing for a change in parenting time, or leave the ball in their mom’s court. If she files a motion to enforce, then you will need to defend the action. In addition, maybe something can be worked out that is amenable to both parents and kids. Find out why the children don’t want to visit and whether their concerns can be addressed while still allowing their mom some parenting time. With teenagers flexibility is essential when working with blended or divorced parents.