It's never easy being a parent to teenagers. Part of growing up is testing boundaries, gaining independence, and exploring newfound freedoms. At the same time, they still need guidance and support from their parents. This can be a difficult balancing act for both parents after they divorce or separate. Older teenagers may want to have more control over when they see both of their parents and where they live most of the time. While it is important to acknowledge your child's strong opinions, both parents must come together to create a plan that works for everyone involved—teens included.
Teenagers in Child Custody Cases
Teenagers will often have a preference for who they live with. Many kids, however, may still have difficulty choosing between their parents and expressing that preference to a judge. They may feel guilty for choosing one parent over the other or may be under undue pressure from a parent to pick them. Some teenagers may be tempted to choose the more lenient parent in hopes that they can get away with more by living with them.
For that reason and others, an older child's preferences are only one of the 14 factors a judge may consider when deciding on child custody in a family law case. The judge in a child custody case will interview a teenager about their preferences for living arrangements and visitation and will weigh those preferences along with the other factors in the case. Since every child matures at a different rate, the importance of a teenager's preferences is up to the discretion of the judge. In general, the preferences of teenagers above the age of 14 are given much more deference than the opinions of children younger than 14. Once a child reaches the age of majority at 18, the judge cannot order them to have contact with either parent if they don't want, and the child is free to live and visit with whomever they choose.
Problems With Teenagers and Custody Arrangements
While dealing with a divorce is never easy, it can be more difficult with older teens. Teenagers may blame one parent for a divorce and make life difficult if they are forced to live with that parent. If they are forced to move to a new home or new city, they may resent the parent that made them move. As time goes on and parents begin to date other people, teens may find it impossible to get along with a parent's new significant other and may refuse to attend that parent's visitation time.
When older teenagers don't want to follow their scheduled timesharing arrangement, it can be difficult to force them to go. However, parents have a legal obligation to follow what the court ordered in their parenting plan and should attempt to make their teens follow the schedule even if they don't want to. If they do not, the parent who is missing time can go back to the judge and ask for the parenting plan to be revised to give them more time.
Get Help With Teenage Child Custody in New Jersey
All teenagers have conflicts with their parents eventually. When these conflicts spill over into child custody proceedings, it may be worth exploring options to lessen the discord. Understanding your teenager's preferences and listening to their wants and needs can help you create a timesharing schedule that works for both parents and children. At the Lento Law Firm, New Jersey child custody attorney Joseph D. Lento can work with your family to create a parenting plan that minimizes conflict and gives each parent their fair amount of time. To retain the Lento Law Firm, call 888.535.3686 today.