Arizona Family Law: Should teenagers be forced to spend time with both parents?
It is no secret that Arizona Family Law judges strongly favor equal parenting time plans for children of unmarried parents. But what about teenagers? Are they also expected to split time between both parents’ homes?
A parenting plan that is appropriate for young children may not be appropriate for teenagers. While the relationship between the parents and children is of primary importance to young children, teenagers have their own lives and agendas. In fact, one of the factors a judge considers is the preference of a child, provided he or she is of a suitable age and maturity to express an opinion.
When deciding an appropriate parenting plan for teenagers, a judge still looks to maximize time with both parents while considering the teenager’s school schedule, extracurricular activities, friends, and possible work schedules. Other factors considered include the proximity of the parents’ respective residences to the school, the teenager’s relationship with each parent, and which parent is more likely to foster a close relationship between the teenager and the other parent.
Teenagers are affected by divorce. If you are facing a divorce with teenagers, he or she may have strong opinions about which parent he or she would like to live with. A teenager is more likely, than a young child, to be adamantly opposed to parenting time with a particular parent. Under those circumstances, parents often ask whether or not to force their 15, 16, or 17 year old to spend parenting time with them. The judge will determine why the teenager is opposed to parenting time with a parent. Issues to investigate include parental alienation, abuse, neglect or other risky behavior.
This is an extremely sensitive topic and everyone’s emotions are likely running high. In the majority of cases, I advise parents, their relationship with their teenager is important enough to warrant enforcing parenting time. In fact, it may provide an opportunity to obtain assistance from Family Court, which could include conciliation services, reunification therapy, or other available services, with the potential of making a positive impact on a parents’ relationship with their soon to be young adult children.
Of course, this is not always the best outcome for all families and ultimately, the best interest of the children control the appropriate parenting plan. Ultimately, the goal is for both parents to have continuing, meaningful contact with the children, no matter the age. The overwhelming evidence suggests that children and parents thrive when both parents are actively involved and share the child rearing responsibilities.