He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

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.