Divorces are painful, no matter what your circumstances are. Custody of your children can be a very contentious issue when you, and even your children, don’t get what they want in the settlement or in mediation.
A lot of thought goes into decisions made by judges concerning your children’s safety and their futures, but they don’t know the smaller details and the nuances of your personal relationships to make the most informed decisions possible. There just isn’t enough time.
So, what do you do when your kiddo refuses to go to their mother’s house on the weekends or your son wants to live full time with his father, especially when the child isn’t of age to make these decisions during the divorce?
The Rights Of The Child
Each child has the right to share their opinion, or even decide, who they would like to live with around the age of twelve. This choice will be documented and will weigh heavily on a judge’s decision, but a history of abuse, the chosen parent’s mental health, and their ability to provide a stable home could very well negate the child’s wishes.
Some parents will ask their children who the kids would wish to live with most of the time if a joint split isn’t possible. A joint split is not necessarily a 50/50 split in some families, especially when they live far apart. No parent will have sole custody and decisions should be made together in a joint arrangement.
Other parents may be reluctant to involve the children in any divorce discussions at all unless required by the court, for example, if there are any accusations of abuse and neglect.
Remember that many children, when asked outright, maybe afraid to give an opinion because they fear hurting someone’s feelings. This is a problem that must be approached delicately and in a way that makes the child feel safe and not judged for whatever they decide. It’s important to keep your opinions to yourself while reassuring them that they are loved by both parties and will be spending time with both of you.
Can We Deviate From The Judge’s Custody Decisions In The Divorce Decree?
If you deviate from the plan once or twice for something like a vacation, for example, it may be best to come up with a document for you both to sign that states the details of the deviation. Always date and signed the document together. You never know if your former spouse will say that they have a problem with this later, even when your co-parenting relationship is currently constructive and positive.
Don’t deviate from the judge’s plan regularly, or permanently, without discussing your options with your attorney. This situation almost always leads to more contentious arguments in court that may just turn around and bite you where it really hurts: the time you spend with your kids.
Keep in mind that Minnesota Statute 518.157 requires your attendance at a special parenting class that will emphasize co-parenting and boundaries for divorcing parents. Minnesota takes the treatment of its children very seriously.
How Can We Change Custody Status If Circumstances Change?
Sometimes things just change, especially as our kids grow and their needs transition into more mature circumstances. We may change jobs, remarry, or our child starts making more mature decisions for themselves.
So, what do we do if our kid wants to spend more time with the other parent, for example, if your growing daughter feels that she needs to spend more time with her mother?
Remember, it isn’t safe for either parent to change custody agreements without the approval of a judge. If both parents can agree on a change, your attorneys can meet with you in a mediation setting and create a new plan. The key is to agree to or compromise with the changes if you want to stay out of a courtroom.
If you disagree, however, your attorney will come back in and represent your interests in front of a judge. No matter what you decide, you need to choose an attorney that you can trust with your, and your children’s, future. The kid’s needs are always first.
Beckman Steen & Lungstrom, P.A. will always make sure that the safety and happiness of your children will come first in your divorce decree. Contact us for more information and to schedule a free initial appointment to discuss your case.