As your kids move into adolescence, having to navigate the challenges of this developmental stage as a single parent can be harrowing. If you are having conflict in your relationship with your teen, it can be brutal to hear them say that they would prefer to live with your ex. While there may not be a perfect response, some reactions are better than others.
Stay Calm and Remember Who You are Talking To
Adolescence is a time for testing boundaries with parents, and your child telling you that they want to move out may be part of that process. If you and your teen are having problems with conflict, they probably know how to push your buttons, including sensitivities regarding your ex. When parents are on the same page, these efforts don’t tend to pick up speed. However, when a child senses that they can manipulate the situation by using their parents’ negative feelings towards one another, the situation can become difficult for everyone. If you are confronted with this scenario, remain calm and remember that you are dealing with someone who is not yet an adult, and may be reacting to you as part of a developmental stage.
Listen and Assess Your Situation
A teenager yelling that they want to live with their other parent in the middle of a fight may be lashing out in anger. However, when your child comes to you and asks to have a rational conversation about changing homes, there may be more to his or her request. Like everyone, teenagers want to feel respected and that their feelings have been heard. Listen to what your child has to say and consider their reasoning. Think about your relationship with them and assess whether it could use some attention. Your child’s request could be an opportunity to have a more involved discussion about their needs and your connection with one another.
Wisconsin law supports a placement schedule that gives a child regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent. The law does not have a specific age where the court must take a child’s preferences into consideration regarding physical placement. However, the court takes numerous factors into account when deciding if certain decisions are in a child’s best interest. One of those factors is “[t]he wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child or through the child’s guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional.” Generally, the older a child is, the more likely it is a court will give his or her opinion weight.
In general, if a child is emotionally and physically healthy and school is going well, the fact that he or she may want to spend more placement time with the other parent is unlikely to be persuasive to a judge. However, if the child is having severe issues or the parties’ circumstances have substantially changed, the court may be inclined to consider making a modification.
Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their circumstances, connect with the right resources, and understand their available options. Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.