Navigating Child Custody When Your Kids Are Teenagers
Divorces are difficult for spouses, but they can be especially difficult for children to endure. Watching mom and dad argue can be draining, even if parents only want what’s best for their kids. Teenagers are old enough to have a better understanding of the situation but are not always in support of their parents’ decision to split. How can you integrate your teen into your custody arrangement without stepping on his/her toes too much?
First, try to manage it on your own. The most straightforward divorces (both emotionally and financially) are managed without involving the court. Try to work out a custody arrangement with your spouse, so that your children are receiving a fair amount of time with either parent. Ideally, each parent swaps responsibilities every two to three days or maybe every other week, but of course, you may find another solution that fits your schedules and locations.
Talking with your teen can help your custody arrangement work smoothly. Teens are old enough to understand the basics of divorce, and they’ll probably have an opinion on whether or not they support it. Regardless, it’s important to show them that you and your spouse both believe divorce is the best option to keep the family happy and healthy. Parents can allow their teen to have some say in a custody arrangement, but if there are younger children following a house-swap schedule, it may be best for the teen to follow suit.
Second, speak to a professional. If you’re having trouble working out a custody arrangement amicably, try meeting with a mediator. A mediator can help you and your spouse smooth out any bumps in your agreement and will save you considerable money when compared to court costs. An attorney can also help you set up a separation agreement, in which custody rules can be outlined and saved.
If your teen is not happy with your custody agreement, he/she could also speak with the mediator or a therapist. Many divorce counselors are trained to help children, teens, and families during their emotionally challenging process, and can provide your teenager with an outlet for expressing their thoughts on the matter without hurting parents’ feelings. Communication is key to ensuring that your custody agreement works.
Use court as a last resort. The court should be saved for couples with high-conflict divorces. If you absolutely cannot work out a custody agreement with your spouse, you can allow the court to assign custody rights to you and your spouse. Unfortunately, this can cause more financial and emotional stress, as not everyone will walk away happy.
All children under 18 are subject to court-arranged custody agreements, which means both your teen and your toddler will receive the same consideration. However, because teenagers are mature enough to provide thoughts on their living situation, the attorneys or judge may allow your child to voice those opinions. While a teen will not get to ultimately decide how their custody arrangement is settled, he/she may have some sway over the details.
If you have questions about custody, helping teens through a divorce, or anything else related to separation, join us at our monthly seminar.