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Parenting Issues This forum is for discussing any of the parenting issues involved in your divorce, including parenting of step-children.

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  #1  
Old 03-25-2013, 11:08 AM
Dazed_and_confused Dazed_and_confused is offline
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Default Unexpected Child custody issue

I could use some advice in dealing with a totally unexpected issue. I had assumed that my 2 kids still with their mother would be staying with her. It turns out that my 12 year old son might want to come and live with me if he could. He has apparently mentioned this to some people but not me yet; the Easter weekend will be our first time together since the separation.

I'm not sure how to raise this subject with my son or the STBX. As I understand it, a 12 year old can make up his own mind about which parent he wants to live with. I would love to have my son with me, but I can already hear the howls of outrage from the STBX.
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:18 AM
stripes stripes is offline
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I wouldn't say anything to your son or stbx. As I understand it, it's an urban myth that at the age of 12 kids can choose who they want to live with. If one parent or other were to reopen the question of legal custody, a judge or mediator would probably listen to the wishes of of a child of that age, but the decision-making power does not reside with the child. Keep lines of communication open with your son so that if something bad is going on at the other house, he feels free to talk about it, but if he raises the issue of choosing which parent to live with, gently but firmly let him know this is an adult decision which adults make.
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:20 AM
SadAndTired SadAndTired is offline
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Well.... many things to think about.

I would say if you are sure you can have him live with you, then I would sit and speak with him about it. Before you speak to your ex and cause her to be upset, speak to the boy about it. Maybe he didn't even say that he wants to live with you?

The problem is your separation is still pretty new. Kids are so confused and all over the place in the early stages. It is possible he is just considering possibilities or saying it to gain leverage with mom....

But the other issue you don't want to get trapped into is status quo especially if ex will fight you for custody. A 12 year old's opinion will be considered but ultimately it is up to you and your ex to consider the things a child may not....

Will he change schools? Will he miss his sibling? etc....

If that is really want the child wants, I would explain that you have heard and respected his opinion and would love for him to live with you but it is a complicated arrangement that you and his Mom have to work it out. Then I would try to talk to ex. Maybe a 50/50 arrangement would work? A trial living arrangement if your son doesn't have to change schools?

Last edited by SadAndTired; 03-25-2013 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:26 AM
SadAndTired SadAndTired is offline
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Sorry, meant to add, my 11 year old is very bright and articulate. She has explained very clearly how powerless the divorce has made her and how she feels like she has to do whatever is best for the situation (ie. we had to move, she hates visitation and doesn't want to go, change of schools, etc) regardless of how she feels about it.

Her counsellor said that all kids of divorce feel this powerlessness and my daughter was just really good at expressing it.

I think addressing and acknowledging your son's feelings is important but realistically letting him know that the decision isn't his is just as important.
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Old 03-25-2013, 11:59 AM
Dazed_and_confused Dazed_and_confused is offline
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My son is a lot like me in that he seldom expresses what he is feeling or thinking. That's why it was such a surprise to hear he wanted to live with me. I'm fairly sure he isn't trying to use it as leverage with his mother, because she doesn't seem to be aware of it, and it wouldn't be consistent with his past behaviour.

I have experience, unfortunately, as a child whose parents separated and I always hated that nobody ever asked me what I wanted or discussed anything with me (I was 13, almost 14 at the time).

I do not ever want him to feel that he is property being fought over, and I also don't want him to feel rejected or that his thoughts and feelings don't count.

Knowing my STBX to some extent, my best course of action would probably be to raise the issue with her of having him spend more time with me than an occasional day and perhaps gradually move to 50 - 50. One step at a time .....
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Old 03-25-2013, 01:26 PM
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Rioe Rioe is offline
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The living arrangements for children need to be decided by the adults, based on many factors, however the wishes of a 12 year old would be one of those factors. Not the only one, but one of them.

It's best for children to have regular ongoing contact with both parents, and not be made to feel as though they must choose one parent over the other.

As for the other factors, make sure they are included in the decision. How far apart are both homes? Which one is closer to the school, his activities, and his friends? Is his desire a mature one, or simply a wish to avoid the more disciplinary household?

This is a decision that affects your son, certainly, but it's not a decision that he has the maturity to make all on his own. Think it out, don't just go with what he is asking. No offence, but saying you would love to have your son live with you is thinking of yourself first as 'winning' him away from your ex, not necessarily thinking of what is best for him.
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Old 03-25-2013, 01:41 PM
Dazed_and_confused Dazed_and_confused is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
As for the other factors, make sure they are included in the decision. How far apart are both homes? Which one is closer to the school, his activities, and his friends? Is his desire a mature one, or simply a wish to avoid the more disciplinary household?
There would be no change of school or anything major. I am only a few blocks from my STBX. It certainly wouldn't be a move to a less disciplinary household. Of course, that could change now that my STBX has "given up" the home and will be moving in the near future. As all of her family is here, I do not anticipate she will move away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
This is a decision that affects your son, certainly, but it's not a decision that he has the maturity to make all on his own. Think it out, don't just go with what he is asking. No offence, but saying you would love to have your son live with you is thinking of yourself first as 'winning' him away from your ex, not necessarily thinking of what is best for him.
No offense taken. I appreciate the candor, as it makes me examine my own thought process and course of action. I would love to have him live with me for the simple reason that I do love spending the time I can with him; right now I'm not sure how often that will be. I can see how it could be interpreted as "winning" him away from the STBX, which is why I think I need to be very careful because that is not my intent at all.
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