No matter how far back your divorce, your custody issues aren’t really over until your youngest child turns 18 years of age. You and your ex-spouse may sometimes spar over everything from vacation time to schooling issues over the years.
But not all custody issues come from the parents. Sometimes, the kids start them.
Once your child turns 14 years of age, they can petition the court for a change in custody. The court does not have to approve their request, but the teen’s sentiments and reasoning are definitely going to be considered. (To keep teens from manipulating the system and their parents by bouncing back and forth between custodians at will, they can only request a change in custody every two years.)
If your teen is proposing a custody change, here are some steps to take:
- Don’t automatically approve or deny your teen’s request. A rash answer given out of frustration, upset or shock isn’t likely to be helpful. Instead, use this opportunity to open a dialogue with your teen so that you understand why they want the change.
- Talk to your ex-spouse about the situation. You need to know if your ex-spouse is already aware of your teen’s desire or if this is a surprise. You also need to know what capacity your ex-spouse has to become your teen’s primary custodian. Does your ex-spouse have the time and space for a teenager’s needs?
- Find a way to vent your feelings and fears. This situation is likely to hit you hard, emotionally. You need to have someone’s ear, so you can talk out your feelings and separate them from what logically needs to happen.
If your teen is trying to move in with their other parent and you’re concerned about your rights and options, find out how an experienced advocate can help you.