When a child wants to live with a former spouse

In New Jersey and across the United States, a child may tell a divorced parent that they prefer living with their other parent. Although the announcement does not come as a shock, the news is not something the custodial parent wishes to hear. However, it is important to engage in the conversation in a positive way. Communicating with a child opens up an opportunity to exchange thoughts about the child’s living arrangements. It is a good idea to tell the child that their views are welcome.

Cultivating an understanding attitude helps a parent value their child’s opinions with an open mind. When a couple has children, divorce is not just about two people drifting apart. Divorce affects children in a profound way that often leads to confusion. Listening to a child’s request to reside with the other parent means trying to see things in a new and different light. It is helpful to invite a former spouse into a meaningful conversation with the child or children.

Avoiding a conversation about the child’s wishes is not a good idea. A child’s feelings about which parent to live with will not go away. It is important to remember that the child is not necessarily saying that one parent is better than another or that the child no longer loves both parents. Additionally, it is a bad idea to say bad things about a former spouse in front of the child. Tell the child that their request is being considered. Thank the child for expressing their feelings.

After listening to the child, contacting a divorce attorney may help address legal considerations and be a good first step in modifying a custody agreement.

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