Should Your Kids Decide Where to Live?
Going through a divorce is a lot of stress for everyone involved. It’s hard on you and your ex because so many things are changing and you have to contend with everything that’s happening with the divorce. You are thinking about finances, splitting your property, and what happens next. However, you have to remember that it’s also difficult for the children. They are going through just as much trauma as you are. In some cases, it could be even more difficult for the kids; they have the mental battle of choosing which parent to live with.
Who Decides the Living and Parenting Situation?
One of the biggest questions you will have to answer is whether you will allow your children to decide where they will live. At what point should you allow this and when should you get input from your children regarding the living situation and the parenting plan? This is a difficult question to answer and not everyone will agree on when it’s the right time or whether they should ever allow their children to make the decision.
Typically, this is not a decision that the children should make. They shouldn’t be allowed to choose where they live or have input on the parenting plan because it can cause more harm than you realize. Many adults of divorce have scars from the loss of being with one of their parents. Ideally, you will have a situation where both parents are allowed to have equal parenting time with the kids. It tends to be best for the children, as they get to spend time with both of their parents.
When you ask your kids where they want to live and spend time, you aren’t doing them the favor that you think you are. This puts them under a substantial amount of pressure. How do they choose between parents? They worry that it will make one parent sad if they choose to spend more time with the other parent. They are just kids. They shouldn’t have this type of pressure foisted on them. Never make the kids feel like they are choosing between their parents. It will only lead to stress and anxiety, which is not fair for the child.
This isn’t to say that you don’t want to listen to your children’s feelings about things, of course. It is simply that there are certain things where you do not want to burden them with the pressure of choosing. These are decisions that are difficult and painful enough for adults to make, so don’t put your kids in the situation of choosing which parent to live with.
This situation would be even worse when they have pressure coming from one or both of the parents about where they should live and spend their time. There are far too many situations where this happens. The mother might be telling the child that they should stay with her because the dad left and took the money or the house. The father might then be telling the child that they left because of something the mother did. This gives the kids far too much insight into the dysfunctional and broken relationship of their parents.
It also presents a loyalty problem to the child. In cases like this, the child will feel like they are rejecting one of their parents. This is not fair to the kids, and they can grow up scarred from these types of decisions. They may also grow to resent that their parents put them in that situation. It should be avoided, especially when the kids are younger. As the kids get older, things could change, though. When a child is 16 or 17, they walk to school, their friends are in one area, all of their activities are in one area, etc., it is different. In those cases, it is about their life as near adults, and sometimes, they can make a decision that will benefit their situation. Letting them talk with you and their other parent about this choice is different from trying to get them to choose whether they want to live with their mom or dad when they are eight. At this point, choosing which parent to live with can be more of an understanding by all parties, instead of an imposed decision.
Set the Rules
Kids tend to do well with structure, and that’s what you want to provide, especially post-divorce. You want to give them clear rules on how your house is run, and your ex will want to do the same for their house when the kids are there. Having structure, even in two homes that might be run differently, is good for kids and it is not hard for them to understand. The kids will learn how to do things differently in the different homes, although it might take them a little bit of time depending on how old they are.
Even if they aren’t happy with the way that one house is run doesn’t mean that one parent should try to get them to come and live with them full-time. You and your ex need to do what’s best for the kids, and in most cases, that is going between the parents’ homes. In the state of Arizona, custody is typically a 50/50 split. This means that the kids are with one parent half the time and the other parent for the rest of the time.
When Children Should Live with One Parent
Naturally, there are some cases where the child should live with one parent rather than the other. This would be true any time that a child could be in danger because of one of their parents. In those cases, the courts will want to do what’s best for the child. The other parent may still have visitation rights, but if they have been violent, if they are without a stable home, or have other issues deemed a problem by the court, then the children will not live with them.
Get in Touch with an Attorney
Divorce and custody can be confusing, and you want to make sure that you get everything right. Therefore, you should always work with a family law attorney that can help you with every aspect of your divorce and custody. Choosing which parent to live with doesn’t need to be a stressor for your child, the process should be about moving forward together, but separately.