Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Is your teen asking to move in with your ex?

Since the divorce, your California family has gone through many changes. With you having primary physical custody, your child enjoyed as much stability as possible. You tried to keep a consistent routine and maintain boundaries your child could understand and thrive within. It was not always easy, and your child may be showing the normal signs of restlessness and rebellion upon reaching the teen years.

That is why you may have felt blindsided when your child announced that he or she wanted to move from under your roof to the other parent's home. Your first reaction may have been hurt feelings and confusion. You may even have accused your ex of planting the idea in your child's head. However, the actions you take to deal with this request may have long-term effects on your relationship with your child.

Dealing with the question

Family coaches advise custodial parents that taking this declaration seriously may be a sign of respect your child needs from you. Even if your child blurted the demand in the heat of an argument, you may want to revisit the topic when tempers are calmer. Changing custody is a delicate matter, and you will want your conversation to be fruitful and civil. You will have a better chance of achieving this if you take the following steps:

  • Establish boundaries for communicating, such as no interrupting, no swearing and no personal attacks.
  • Resist the urge to cut off the conversation without listening to your child's reasons.
  • Open your mind to the possibility that spending time with the other parent may be beneficial for the child.
  • Discuss the matter calmly with your ex, and perhaps include him or her in your conversation with the child.
  • Do not use the time to criticize or put down your child's other parent, even if you know the change in custody will not be a wise move.
  • Take time after the conversation to think and seek advice rather than giving your answer right away.

You may need to reach deep into your mind to understand if your reluctance to allow your child to move is based on valid fears for your child's wellbeing or your personal emotions at having your child choose the other parent. Additionally, you will want to understand the legal issues involved in modifying the custody order if you should decide to agree to the child's wishes. Working through this phase with your child may help you both to gain even more respect for each other.

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