As a divorced parent, you hear over and over again that the judge decides custody based on the child’s interests. There are several factors that go into that decision. In New York, the child’s preference is also taken into account, especially if your son or daughter is over 13.
So what do you do if your child tells you that he wants to live with his father?
- Do not take it personally. Children can have many different reasons for wanting to change their home situation that do not reflect on you as a parent. Maybe your son prefers his larger room at his dad’s house or your daughter enjoys living closer to one of her friends. On the other hand, your child may have said that out of frustration in the heat of the moment. Either way, try not to react in anger.
- Find a healthy outlet for your emotions. While hearing that your child wants to live with his dad can naturally bring up sadness, anger or fear, resist the temptation to take those feelings out on your former spouse or your kids. You are only human and you may want to lash out, but trash-talking your ex to convince your kids to stay could have horrible consequences for you and your kids. Especially if you worry that living with the other parent would be unsafe for your child, consider speaking with a counselor or therapist. Professional assistance can help you process your feelings and talk to your child in an age-appropriate way.
- Calmly discuss with your child the reasons for wanting to live with the other parent. See if you can find a middle ground way to modify your current custody arrangement to fit in your child’s desire without making the move. If you have a decent relationship with your former spouse, it may make sense to involve him in this conversation.
No matter where your child lives, co-parenting while divorced can bring up unique challenges. Through it all, always let your kids know that you love them unconditionally.