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How Much Say Should Children Have in Determining Custody Arrangements?

One of the hardest parts of a divorce is determining who gets custody of the children and how much visitation time the non-custodial spouse should receive. You and your spouse want what is best for your children, and that is not always easy to determine.

Many parents want to take their child’s preferences into consideration during custody determinations, and while parents do this with the best of intentions it is important to be mindful about the appropriate way to approach your child about this difficult topic.

How to Talk With Your Child About Possible Custody Arrangements

Before you and your spouse approach your child to talk about possible custody arrangements, it is important you have an honest conversation with each other about whether your child is mature enough to have such a conversation. The full implications of a custody arrangement can be hard even for adults to understand until they take effect, and young children in particular are generally not able to fully appreciate the full impact of saying “I want to spend the weekend with you, but weekends with you.”

If you and your spouse decide your child is mature enough to participate in a conversation about their custody preferences, make sure that you don’t just ask them how much time they want to spend with Parent 1 versus how much time with Parent 2. Instead, ask them questions that help them understand the implications of different custody options. For example, instead of asking “Would you rather spend weekends with me or them?” ask them, “Would you rather stay in the school you’re at right now, or would you be okay with going to a new school?” or “If you spend more of your time with Parent 1 you will move to a different part of town, but you will be closer to your aunts, uncles, and cousins. What do you think about that?”

Watch for “Pleasing” Behaviors

It is normal for your child to feel like they are caught in the middle between you and your spouse, and because of this your child may feel like they need to please both of you. Your job as a parent going through a divorce is to insulate your child as much as possible from the emotional pitfalls of divorce. Even if you think that your child is mature enough for this kind of conversation, you still need to be vigilant for signs that your child is not giving you answers reflective of what they truly want, but is rather giving you the answer they think you want to hear. If this is the case, redirect the conversation to reassure them that you and your spouse will love them no matter what, and that your priority is ensuring their life is as easy and happy as possible moving forward.

Questions About Child Custody?

If you are considering a divorce and are unsure about how to handle a child custody agreement, the experienced divorce attorneys at Blair H. Chan III, PLLC, are ready to help talk with you about your options. We understand that you simply want what is best for your children, and will work with you to help craft a custody agreement that reflects their best interests. Contact us today.

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