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After going through a divorce, there is that one phrase no parent ever wants to hear; “I want to live with Dad” or vise versa. Stephanie Burchell, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explains “When a child chooses one parent over the other some parents may experience feelings of rejection, disloyalty, and abandonment.” She goes on to explain how it often re-opens the wounds of the divorce and failed relationships before.
What makes a child want to switch homes?
There are a variety of reasons why a child may want to live with their other parent. One reason Burchell gave was that the child longs to have a stronger connection with the other parent or hopes to fill a hole that their current parent is failing to fill. Michelle New, a clinical child psychologist had insights on the reasoning as well. She explained this desire is usually more prominent as the child reaches adolescence. These adolescence children are attempting to reduce conflict in their life or are hoping the other parent has fewer rules. Ultimately, these children fall victim to the thought that the grass is greener on the other side.
Most states relies on a judge to determine custody and a child does not have the right to change that. The majority of the time, once custody has been awarded to a certain parent it cannot be changed unless there is a significant change in that parent’s life. Ultimately, the child’s best interest is what determines their home. If a child is mature and old enough to express a valuable opinion, the court will take that into weight. Generally, this age is approximately 12 years old. The older the child, the greater effect their opinion has on the decision.
Tips if a Child Wants to Live with a Former Spouse
The first thing to remember, is regardless of the divorce, individuals are still parents. They did not divorce their kids in the process and parents that respect their children will receive loyalty from their children. If a child does want to live with a former spouse, the following tips are vital to remain close with the child.
1. Do Not Badmouth the Other Parent
Burchell explains that a child will always feel a connection to both parents. As their child they will have a sense of love and loyalty so should a parent make the other look undesirable it will place pressure on the child.
2. Cover Your Legal Bases
Before allowing a child to live with the other parent, meet with a lawyer, says News. This way there is not confusion and the legality of the situation is clear.
3. Recognize the Other Parent’s Importance
It is important to let the child know they are allowed to have a relationship with the other parent. Burchell goes on to explain, “Although a divorce may be final, the job to serve as a positive and flexible co-parent remains over the course of the child’s life.”
4. Remain Active in the Child’s Life
News describes the importance of staying close to the child as she says, “Be sure to stick to your visitation rights and visit and call your child as often as you can”. This way the child still feels that loving connection.
Even though a divorce separates spouses, it should not affect the children from having a loving and healthy relationship with both parents. It is important that parents understand that and support their children in having great relationships with both parents.
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