He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not
In California, It is settled law that, unless in the best interest of the
child, both parents have the same rights regarding custody and visitation
of their child. In fact, recent law has expanded that right and allowed
certain third parties to have those same rights. But what about the child's
right to visit a parent that doesn't want to visit with that child?
Can the court compel (force) a parent to visit the child?
In 1981, Kimberly Anne asked the court to make her father visit with her.
She made the request through her mother, who was acting as her
guardian ad litem (the advocate, or voice for the child). Kimberly Anne argued that, if
her father spent some time with her, he would grow to love her, and want
to share himself with her. Her father had never married Kimberly Anne's
mother. And, after paternity was established, he paid his child support,
but he refused to be involved in any other part of Kimberly Anne's life.
There is no other personal information about the parties involved. The
trial court ordered that proceedings remained sealed (confidential to
the outside world), and the appellate court upheld the trial court's order.
The appellate court upheld the trial court and declared that the neither
the codified law, nor case law can compel a parent to spend time with
his/her child. "The court can only compel the parent to provide monetary
support. The children are not being treated differently based on the marital
status of their parents; the court simply lacks the authority to compel
this sort of behavior."
The appellate court quoted from the case of
InSalas v. Cortez: "It seems self-evident that the central issue in paternity suits
is neither the establishment nor maintenance of the family unit nor the
parent's bond with the child. What is at stake is money.... The state
cannot, despite the… allusion to 'moral' obligations, order
a man to act as a father; it can only designate him as such...."
The appellate court further held, "Respondent has been designated
as the father and he has duties and obligations to fulfill… [T]he
court cannot order him to act as a father… [Kimberly Anne] argues
that compelling the father to visit now will make him love [her] and in
time his visits will become voluntary. This may or may not occur, but
in any event it is not up to the courts to make such a decision."
In other words, courts can't compel love parents to love their children
regardless of the reasons.