Dealing With Child Custody Amid Teenager’s Preferences
Navigating Late Adolescence in Divorced Families Entails Balancing Teenagers’ Desire for Independence with the Need for Direction and a Fair Custody Agreement for the Parties Involved
Divorced parents frequently struggle when their children enter late adolescence. Teenagers are challenging, and as they transition into young adults, they want their freedom as they decide about career and college opportunities. Between ages 15 and 17, they want to make more decisions independently and associate more with their peers. Parents still have to create a custody agreement that satisfies all parties involved, which can be an uphill battle. The growing pains are experienced multilaterally. It is hard for parents to hear that their child would rather spend time without them, and teenagers struggle to be heard by the same people who don’t want to let them go. It is a balancing act that requires great acumen and compassion.
Factors Influencing a Teenager’s Custody Choices in New Jersey
There are several reasons why a teenager prefers to reside with one parent over the other. If the parent with physical custody lives close to the teen’s friends, local hangout spots such as malls, skateparks, or their part-time job, they will usually prefer staying with that parent. Attending school with their friends allows them to socialize with the same peers they have known for several years.
If the teenager has a contentious relationship with their parent’s partner, that can also influence their preferences for custody. Getting along with stepsiblings and a stepparent is a source of frustration and can push the teen to balk at a custody plan that requires them to spend a significant amount of time with that parent.
Teenagers prefer being in familiar surroundings with people they know. Participation in school sports, plays, musicals, and clubs such as the honor society or community outreach expands their circle of influence as they get to know more people and act on their talents and interests. They are engrossed in a multitude of activities, leaving little time or concern for parental visits.
Apart from a teen’s busy schedule, sometimes physical custody is preferred because one parent is more lenient than the other. Ideally, parents should work together to establish the same rules, consequences, and boundaries, but that isn’t always the case. Custody could be changed without anyone’s opinion if the teen is in danger. Teens who have access to alcohol and drugs or gang activity will be placed in the home where they are most safe, like it or not. The concern here is that perhaps a teen is acting out purposefully to be sent to live with the other parent. Changes in custody must be gone over with a fine-toothed comb and would best be supported by a counselor or therapist to guarantee the decisions that are made are best for everyone involved.
When Do Children Attain Legal Autonomy for Decision-Making in NJ?
Some states, such as Tennessee and New Mexico, allow children 12 to 14 years of age to influence a court’s decision with their custody preference. In New Jersey, the judge determines how much influence the teen’s preferences will have. Once the teen reaches the age of 18, they are no longer required to follow the custody agreement.
Parental Guidance to Attend Teen’s Custody Concerns
Parents should sit with their teen and discuss the pros and cons of multiple custody options. As your children get older, their opinions should be heard. By giving them a voice and a vote, you are building a relationship of trust and saying you respect their ability to make decisions for themselves. Placing their needs and wants above your own can be painful when it means you may spend less time with them. Also, remembering that flexibility and understanding go a long way when placing the teen’s busy schedule ahead of custody visits is appreciated. It is also helpful that parents attend sporting events or other presentations, whether it is their time to have custody.
Listening to your teenager’s needs and concerns concerning custody is of the utmost importance. Perhaps the lines of communication have gotten crossed, and there are some misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Get those out of the way before discussing a parenting plan.
The most valuable part of arranging a plan everyone can accept is flexibility. Now is no time to nitpick about which parent has an extra hour a week or how many weekends versus weekdays are mapped out. Equitable time is great, but there are other ways to stay in contact with your teen, such as video calls, texts, and emails. Utilizing the technology your teen is so deft at is a way to show how much you want to include them in your daily life.
Custody Decisions for Older Teens Continue to be Guided by Parental Responsibility
Parents are ultimately responsible for ensuring the custody agreement is followed. Offering flexibility, listening to your teen’s protests, providing possible solutions, or seeking counseling are all viable solutions. Working in tandem with your ex makes finding a solution much easier. Unfortunately, if nothing can be resolved, you can return to court and demand the plan be followed.
Gain Control of Your Teenager’s Custody Situation with the Support of Our Family Lawyers in NJ
Although all teenagers at one time or another have conflicts with their parents, when the conflict turns to the custody agreement you and your ex have created, more help may be required. You may need to file a motion to modify the custody agreement or to demand that your spouse follow the existing one. You need a seasoned family law attorney who can navigate the process with you.
Our family law attorneys at Montanari Law Group have successfully worked with families to create custody agreements that meet the needs of everyone involved in Caldwell, Wanaque, Ringwood, Hawthorne, Pompton Lakes, and throughout Passaic County and North Jersey. We know raising a teenager can be challenging, even more so when you need to know what your rights are regarding your teen’s custody. We are superior negotiators with access to resources such as experts who can weigh in on your problems.
Call us today at (973) 233-4396 to see how we can help you resolve the issues you have with your teen and their custody plan. You can also contact us online. Don’t let a temporary conflict permanently damage your family relationships.