During a divorce, where the children will live is one of the most difficult decisions for parents to make. Both parents often feel that they are the better choice for custodial parent but usually the best place is where the child’s routine will be as close to pre-divorce as possible. If your child is old enough, such as a teenager, you and your spouse can definitely ask what their preference is, especially if you are working together for an amicable dissolution.
Working together to make a divorce is the best arrangement for you and your children. If you and your spouse can do this, your older children should have a say in where they want to live. As long as there is no indication of abuse or neglect, a teenager is capable of making his/her own decision. Just be aware before you ask your child that you may not be the parent he/she chooses to live with. You have to be ready to accept their decision, even if it hurts.
For smaller children, it is best to make arrangements without their choice. They are too young to understand the divorce process, let along how to choose between parents. It is not fair to put them in that position. Try to keep their routine as normal as possible as you work through your divorce settlement and make decisions together without involving the children.
Mediation should be the next step, if you cannot reach decisions together. This involves a neutral third party who listens to both sides and comes up with possible solutions. During mediation, you can discuss child custody arrangements and hopefully, find the best possible arrangement for your children.
If your case goes to court, older children may be asked where they would like to live. Before this happens, think about the pressure this puts on your child. They will feel as if they are choosing one parent over the other and the guilt might be more than they can handle. Unless the child volunteers an opinion of preferred living arrangements, it will be best if you and your spouse make that decision together. Remember that as long as you and your spouse get along, your child can visit more than the agreement states. The agreement is the minimum visitation the court will allow.
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