When Your Child Refuses to Visit Father

5 Must Do’s When Your Child Refuses to Visit Their Father

One of the more complex issues in coparenting after divorce is balancing your needs with your child’s needs. This is especially challenging when your child refuses to visit a parent based on the agreements made with your coparent, such as visitation time.

Some children do not want to spend time with their father* or other parent and refuse to go. This may be because of inconvenience in their life schedule: preferring to be with friends, participating in a planned event, avoiding the hassles of changing homes, travel, etc.

More troublesome is when the refusal is of a more emotional nature: saying I don’t have fun at daddy’s house, I don’t like daddy, he’s too strict, there’s nothing to do, he doesn’t spend any time with me, etc.

Obviously, the emotional argument demands more attention to unravel what’s going on.

And it requires your most objective perspective focused on listening, acknowledging, and responding as well as looking within.


Ask questions and listen to your child’s response about what they’re feeling—and try to figure out why your child refuses to visit their other parent. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, without judgment. Reflect back to your child what you hear them saying to make sure you’re understanding them correctly. Respond with kindness and compassion, even if you don’t agree.

If you can, come up with alternative solutions or options: a time change, new agreements, more space for their things. Suggest you’ll have a conversation with dad if that’s appropriate—or perhaps they can have that conversation themselves.


Don’t discount your child’s feelings or wishes. Don’t dismiss them as foolish or unrealistic. Tell them they have the right to anger, fear, frustration or other feelings. They also have the right to express their emotions—but without infringing on other people’s rights.

Children need to know they are not bad or wrong for resisting things they don’t like. However, life is full of obstacles that we have to cope with. Let’s look for solutions. But keep in mind you are the adult who is making decisions. Be sure they are mature, rational, compassionate decisions for everyone involved, including dad.


Can your child come up with a solution that is also fair to dad? Is dad being fair with them? If not, what can we do to make things better?

Should they talk to him so he has an opportunity to respond and address the issues? Should we have a family conference together, if possible?

Other questions: Are their ways to change the circumstances to find a middle-ground or compromise? What can your child do to adapt to the situation more easily? What can dad do to change the visiting experience?


Are you letting your own feelings about dad impact your child? Kids pick up not only on what is said, but on facial expressions, intonations, and other non-verbal cues. If your child knows you don’t respect dad, or hears you talk about him to others in a derogatory manner, your child will want to refuse to visit in defense and support of you. But is that fair to their father?

When is it parental estrangement, and when is it parental alienation? Read more to understand what’s going on with your coparent and what can happen when your child refuses to visit a parent.

It’s important for you to keep your objections to yourself. Don’t confide negative opinions to your child. Don’t let them feel guilty for loving their other parent. And don’t encourage them to demean their other parent who loves them.


Whenever possible, discuss these issues with dad to create a plan you both can agree on. Encourage more interaction and communication between visits on phone or video to build a low-stress bond.

Consider reaching out to a therapist or divorce coach as an objective party supporting a peaceful resolution. This is especially important before bringing these issues into the court or legal proceedings.

Discuss ways to make the visit transitions as easy and stress-free as possible. In addition, be sure your child can call you when they are away for emotional support. Be positive and reassuring on these conversations. Don’t add guilt to the dynamic at hand by stressing how much you miss them. Let them know you’ll be busy while they’re away so they needn’t worry about you and your feelings.

A child who refuses to visit and doesn’t want to spend time with their father is a child in pain. It’s important to address the underlying factors contributing to this situation as quickly as you can. Get the support you need so you can support your child in the best possible ways while respecting the father-child relationship at the same time.



Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our t



ribe and stay connected.


* SAS for Women is an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages.  For the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse as a male.

Share these insights


  1. Jasmine on November 27, 2022 at 08:19

    My children do not want to go to their dads because my son says he doesn’t spend time with them, he’s emotionally abusive and name calls on my son there’s smoking and drinking ..i will not force my children to be around someone who is narcissistic and emotionally abusive and make them go if they don’t want to I believe that’s damaging ..

    • Melissa on December 15, 2022 at 18:54

      I definitely understand that one. My daughter is 17.5 years old and wants nothing to do with her narcissistic, paranoid schizophrenic father who name calls and verbally as well as emotionally abuses her as well as me. The damn court system is trying to force me to send her for visitation against her will and I say “F.U.!” to the New York State Family Court system. Her next scheduled visit is for December 20 which happens to be my ex-husband’s birthday and she’s flat-out refusing to go.

      • Julia Maria Lowe on March 21, 2023 at 09:24

        So what did you do? I’m in Indiana. My son was physically and emotionally abused by dad, court is still saying he has to go there but son is refusing. My lawyer said I could go to jail if I don’t comply. I have 2 other little ones at home I can’t go to jail, but want to protect my son.

      • Maggie Gomez on July 18, 2023 at 14:14

        OMG you just described my daughter’s ex-husband. My grandson is the same age and he is refusing to go back..the court systems do nothing to protect our children it’s a wonder why they get killed by idiot parents. So heartbreaking…

      • Mick Dundee on August 23, 2023 at 20:20

        You sound like a Psycho too, I pity the children.

    • Jennifer on August 21, 2023 at 03:24

      I am going through the same thing. The judge will not give me a court date! unbelievable after 4 years of battling to get my twins back!

  2. Ahmet Hakan on May 28, 2023 at 03:45

    You loved all these people once upon a time. They cannot be that bad. You must not punish your husbands by turning their children against them…

    • Sonja on June 6, 2023 at 04:31

      We don’t have to….these fathers do that all by themselves!!!!!!!

    • Sandy King on August 23, 2023 at 10:50

      Ahmet Hakan
      You should do some research on how many of these so called loving husbands/fathers kill their children and wives! Check the one in AZ Dec 2022 this loving husband killed his wife, 3 year old and 6 mos old twins, because she was going to divorce him! Do some research for just Dec. 2022 a Jan 2023, in just 2-3 states see how many children and wives were killed out of love!! Not to mention children that don’t know their fathers, because they choose to not have anything to do with the child, now to punish the mother, they want the child in their life, the child suffers because their being forced to visit, no matter how much they cry and say they don’t want to stay or go!! Where’s the child’s rights, people need to think about the child! You should not post an opinion when you know nothing about what’s truly going on!!

  3. Tammy on June 11, 2023 at 18:29

    There are 2 sides to every story. Most of the time children will align with the emotionally unstable narcissistic parent who is the actual abuser because of fear of rejection from that parent. The parent who is generally pointing the finger is the parent who is doing the things they speak of. It is child abuse to keep your child from the other parent and or cause a smear campaign because of your own insecurities. The children did not divorce their parents you divorced one another.

    If there is actual abusive things going on then call the cops and get the courts involved. I know full well as a mother what parental alienation and estrangement is and narcissistic tendencies are. The person doing this does it in a way that’s manipulative. It’s a slow process of brainwashing so it doesn’t look like they are the bad guy but they actually are. It is emotionally damaging to a child. It’s one thing if they are in physical danger, but an entirely another thing if you know deep down their father is a good dad but you just can’t stand the fact he has moved on with his new wife, or your still angry about the divorce. Get some help and if you’re not the abuser than get the court system involved.

    • Nicole on June 17, 2023 at 01:17

      From my own experience with my own and those whom I know who have gone through this, kids gravitate towards the parent that creates a safe space for them to be themselves. A place where they can be heard and feel all of their feelings. My kids have a hard time at their Dads because they don’t feel Ike he hears them when they say what they want and need. And there is a new relationship that has changed the household dynamics. I find myself encouraging them to talk to him and be honest with him. But that’s hard for kids. So it’s understandable that it would be easier to be in a home where they feel they can completely relax. I’m sure that my ex thinks I talk badly about him and his new partner or that I make looks or react poorly. It’s a cop out to write off the kids feelings on a smear campaign by the co-parent. I don’t do any of that. I want them to be content in both homes. It’s what’s best for them.

  4. Mom on July 20, 2023 at 11:06

    I have two children with my ex-husband, the oldest of which is over 18 now. A few years after the divorce (over 10 years ago), she left to be with him and in order to keep her with one of us and know where she is, I let her stay with their father. As she passed through the teenage years, their relationship became more aggressive and to this day she does not feel that her needs were met there, both physical and emotional. She was reported, a few years ago, to be actually sneaking out of his house and is smoking entry-level drugs now with a bf who all of my family questions. She also became latchkey.

    “Our” son is moving the into older elementary school years now and chats about dad to me. I try to listen and not say much at all, as anything repeated can be used against me, but more and more “our” (quotes because my ex-husband has no belief in my parenting) son is sounding like he doesn’t want to go on the long visits and is also noticing differences in his life at home with me and his life while visiting his father.

    Their father gaslit me during the marriage into the point of panic attacks and needing counselling and some of the current stories my son tells are about his father tricking him (such as when looking for a belonging and telling where it’s not). This has me greatly concerned, together with greatly satisfied, because my/”our” son is thinking.

    It’s only my opinion to say that children are always thinking (I work in kindergarten full time for almost 10 years), even when we least expect it and they are observing us adults, even when we’re talking to the backs of their head (a reason why many teachers have a hair bun, is a joke about this).

    I feel like children refusing to go on the visitation are aware of red flags but do not have the full rights of adults to say where they want to be and don’t. What I’e learned we parents CAN do is be quiet about the other parent and put that energy and thought into teaching our kids the most safety things we can-such as safety of argument descelation, self care, hygiene style care to do on their own and so on. What we CAN do is trust in the children to trust their instincts from what we teach them and how to feel or get to safety fast. I’m trying to do this with my/our son, who has no rights to say no, really, because his father lies in court and his lawyer lies in court.

    Finally, focusing on what we CAN influence has been really helpful for the rumination that stems from what we cannot control and gives me a place to put negative energy.

    Sorry for my long message -I’m just a mom who’s struggled with this for ten years and has ten more to go.

  5. Kimberely on August 16, 2023 at 11:55

    I’ve witnessed something recently which left me with my mouth open in shock. My daughter has subtley turned her daughter against all her Dad’s side of the family. My granddaughter is 6. She took an overdose so naturally granddaughter was placed with Dad. Dad was working with SS to ensure everything was in his daughter’s best interest. Daughter picks up granddaughter early one day and since has punished Dad and their side for doing the decent thing. My daughter is paranoid, unstable, addicted to cannabis, enjoys intense romantic relationships and took 2 overdoses in 9 months. The domestically abusive last partner is back with her after she reported him to police. SS have somehow decided to close the case. What is my granddaughter learning about relationships? Life? Problem solving? My daughter has had multiple homes, partners, jobs and friends within my granddaughter’s 6 years of life, the Dad has had 1 of each. All his family are stable. Ours are not, 1 is in prison, nearly all the rest are addicts. I’m in therapy trying to understand it all. What does the Dad do when the ex partner lies and encourages her 6 year old to speak to Dad anyway she likes? I am speaking up for my granddaughter by writing this, not siding with either parent. They both have a part to play.

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