Teenagers and Custody / by Cassandra Hearn

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Every parent will tell you that parenting holds many unique rewards and challenges.  Every age group has its own set of new hurdles for parents as children grow and learn.  Parenting teenagers is often a very testing time for mothers, fathers, and others responsible for a child’s care and upbringing.  Custody and divorce cases add chaos and uncertainty to this already challenging time in the parent-child relationship.  If you are going through a custody case and you have a teenager, there are some special considerations you should keep in mind going forward.

First, even if your child is close to the age of majority, the law still views him or her as a child.  This means that a parenting schedule will need to be entered that provides for where the child will spend his or her time.  Unlike an infant, however, a teenager will most likely have a busy schedule full of extracurricular activities, school work, events with friends, and maybe also a job.  When thinking about what type of parenting schedule will best fit your child, you should keep all of these in mind.  If you know, for example, that there is no way that you can make sure your fifteen-year-old can make it to piano lessons on time during certain days due to your work schedule, discuss this issue with the other parent and try to make accommodations for the child.  You may also want to consider talking to your child about his or her preferences for where to live and how the day-to-day schedule should be handled.

Next, although teenagers may have more emotional depth and complexity than a young child, it is still inappropriate and inadvisable to share all of the details of the divorce with your child.  Talking to your teenager about all of the reasons that you and your spouse are no longer together can easily be seen as an attempt to undermine the relationship between your teenager and your spouse, which is a very serious issue that the courts deal with harshly.  Moreover, talking badly about your spouse to your child can result in very real psychological harm. 

Finally, teenagers are already dealing with a vast and overpowering number of their own emotional issues.  Laying divorce and custody on top of these can be overwhelming for the child and can put stress and pressure on what may already be a strained relationship with one or both parents.  Family counseling can be a great way to help ease tensions and facilitate communication in a time of conflict.

Custody and separation are difficult times, but we are ready to help you and your family.  Call us today to talk about your case and how we can assist you