Parents of a minor child who divorce will normally have a well-crafted child custody and visitation plan in place once the divorce becomes final. If you and your ex-spouse were able to work together to create a fair plan with the best interests of your child in mind, you know the importance of using your own input, rather than that of a judge. No one can really know what's best for your child but you and your ex-spouse. However, as your child grows older, they may question a custody plan and seek to change it.
Agreement No Longer Works
No matter how well thought-out your parenting agreement may be, the courts are always open to amending any issue that concerns the welfare of the child. As parents, you may need to consider that agreements made when the child is young may no longer work as well once the child becomes a teenager. As children mature, their social life blossoms and they become more independent. If your teenager wants to make changes to your carefully crafted plan, you should know that some states do allow children of a certain age to have input in their custody plan.
Questions to Ask
Below are some questions that the judge will be asking to determine if a custody modification is in order. As parents, asking yourselves these very same questions could help you to decide if it's time to allow your older child to have a say in custody arrangements.
- What is the motivation behind your child's request for the change? A teenager's need for independence could motivate them to seek physical custody with the less stringent parent.
- Is the prospective custodial parent reliable, responsible and stable? Are they healthy, and do they have a suitable living space for the child?
- Will this change in arrangements be long-term? Teenagers can be notoriously moody, but going to court can be costly. Make sure your teenager understands that this agreement needs to last until they are no longer a minor.
- Does everyone involved agree to the change? A judge may not necessarily agree with your suggested changes, but is far more likely to accept a plan that all of you agree upon.
- Has the child been influenced by bribery or force to request this change? This should always be suspected if the request seems to be sudden and unexpected.
If the answers to any of these questions are troubling, you may need to consider getting some support from a family therapist to help you understand your child's needs better. An ideal approach might be to consult with a team made up of a legal mediator, family therapist and a family law attorney, like those found at site like http://www.kamesquire-com.webs.com. Together with your team, you can make the best decision on whether or not to allow your child to request a change in your child custody arrangement.