Monday, May 14, 2007

Child of divorce wants to choose where he lives

This article is too great not to pass on...

Q What are your thoughts on split custody of two siblings?
Eight months ago, the son asked to move in with the father. Now he's asking to move back to his mom's house. He's 11.

His reasons for wanting to return are to see his mom and his 6-year-old sister more; to have friends, because he has made no new ones in his current school or neighborhood; and he doesn't like the fact that no one is there when he gets home from school.

His dad doesn't want him to go back, but I think the son is very lonely. He mentioned in passing that he moved in with his father because he didn't want his dad to be lonely. The divorce was four years ago. His mom has remarried, and his dad just recently started dating.

Is it a good idea to let a child select where he wants to live? Is it hurtful to separate siblings? Should the dad get to decide where the child lives? Would a family counselor be a good idea to sort through the issues?

A Who decides where a minor child lives after a divorce? Sometimes a judge decides; sometimes the decision is made by mediation. Sometimes the parents fight over where the child will live. Sometimes the child has input, sometimes not.

What's best for the child? Two parents who love the child, understand the child's needs, realize the impact that divorce has on a child, and communicate well so that they can work together continuously on what's best for the children as they grow and develop.

I'm guessing that the person who wrote today's letter is a grandparent. I infer that the parents are not paying much attention to their child and don't communicate well. I also infer that the boy asked to leave about the time mom got married. Mom now had a husband and two kids, while dad had no one. I find it interesting and disquieting that some children of divorce end up taking care of their parents instead of the other way around.

To answer your questions, splitting two siblings is not a good idea. There are enough other changes going on in the children's lives at the time of a divorce. As for an 11-year-old deciding where he wants to live, if a custody fight came before the court, most judges would ask the child — or have the child and both homes evaluated — before making a final decision.

Your letter points out a major pitfall in letting the child decide. It was noble of the boy to want to take care of his father, but he's too young to take on such a task. Depending on what the custody arrangements are, dad doesn't have the sole right to decide.

Family counseling would be a great idea if all parties, including the mother's new husband, are willing, and are all in a mode of "I want what's best for the kids." Individual counseling for the boy could help him realize that he's the kid and he deserves friends and stability in his life, even if dad is lonely.

Finally, it's fortunate that most children are resilient, because so many parents today have it backward. They put themselves first — before the kids. Some children of divorce never quite get over it. I recently heard a man in his 60s mention it was the 50th anniversary of his parents' divorce. He remembered the exact day.

I realize that not every couple can or wants to follow these rules, but here are Dr. Heins' rules for protecting children from the effects of divorce:

● Don't get married unless you expect to spend the rest of your life married to this person.
● Don't have children unless they will be able to spend their entire childhood in the two-parent family you created.
● Don't get divorced unless you're comfortable with the idea that your kids might spend their entire lives remembering a divorce anniversary and its impact.

4 comments:

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I am a growing Christian said...

Hi, I was browsing and found your site. I think I will be back and look around. Thanks for sharing. What I have learned about this type of thing - the kids don't really know what is best, and whichever parent provides the most stable home with the most love toward the absent parent should be considered (though this does not always happen). I have seen my stepkids prop up and support their mom to their detriment because she "can't live without them" even though she won't stay home with them or be available for them when they need help with school and things because of her own desires (work, her husband, etc.) They are parenting and doing housework and have not had daycare since they were 8 and 6). It is sad, and the effects as they are getting teenaged (11 and 13)is showing ~ I feel so sad for them! My kids are better off, though still hurting from the divorce. I KNOW all the time that this is why divorce should not be an option unless extreme circumstances. Bless you all.

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Virginia Divorce Lawyers said...

Deciding whether to divorce may be the most important decision of your life. Two essential factors in a divorce are emotional compatibility and legal issues. For couples with children, the children's welfare also becomes a key factor. Children of divorce are more vulnerable to depression, behavior problems, and problems in their own relationships. Because of this, it is important for parents to think carefully about how they will tell their children and what they will tell them. When possible, the entire family should meet together so that both parents can answer children's questions. This strategy may also help parents to avoid blaming each other for the divorce.