What to do when your teenager wants to live with the other parent

Whatever the reasons for your divorce or relationship breakdown, one of the biggest issues that affects all of the parties involved is child access. It can be a devastating blow to hear that your teenager desires to live with your ex partner whether you have had full access or your child has been living with you up until this point, or it is a new decision as part of the divorce process.

It can be one of the most upsetting and disturbing revelations to be told by your child that they want to stay with the other parent. There are a few things to think about when this situation arises:

First of all, assess whether this is a retaliation of some sort or if it is a decision that has come about after a long thought process from your child. If it is something that has been bubbling beneath the surface for quite some time, your process needs to be slightly different than if it is a heat of the moment teenage reaction to something that has happened recently. It is fairly common for a teenage child to want to see what life would have been like if they were to live with their other parent, and for boys to want to spend time with their father and girls to spend time with their mother, though this is not always the case.

Stay calm

Try not to take it personally. Teenagers are a whole bundle of hormones and irrational responses rolled up into one being. If they scream that they hate you and will never be coming back, it is usually in response to a household rule that you are trying to enforce or because you won’t back down on something they are desperate to do. You must try to remain calm and in control by not backing down, but also not saying anything that could be interpreted as you wanting them to go and live with your ex partner.

Do not retaliate or get into an argument. Take a deep breath, and in a controlled way, state that you are happy to discuss this matter further if they want to at a time that will suit you both.

Safety First

Your main concern should be whether your child will be safe with the other parent. If this is not the case you will want to discuss the issue with your divorce lawyer to clarify what the best course of action for your personal circumstances are

If you feel that your child is definite about wanting to stay with their other parent, you will also want to seek professional advice from your lawyer who will be able to advise you in detail on your situation. For example, it is very different if you live in the same town as your ex partner, compared with elsewhere in the country or indeed in another country. You could set up a contract with the other parent through your divorce lawyer to arrange changes to child access, ensuring that you are both happy about the amount of time and contact you are going to be able to receive. This could be set up as a trial period for a number of months to see how the situation works. By having the contract agreed by all parties it will make any further changes along the line easier to deal with.

Wherever you child ends up living, you will always be their parent and you will always be there to support them.

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