Child Custody: Could You Handle Your Child Choosing Your Ex?

A family dealing with divorce must account for many considerations. The divorcing spouses need to decide who will keep the family home, which in turn decides who needs to find a new place. Property and assets must be divided equitably, and arrangements made regarding the children. When making decisions regarding child custody in Illinois, the court is expected to at least consider the wishes of the child as to which parent with whom they wish to live. For many divorced parents, it can be very difficult to find out that their child’s preference is the other parent.

For some post-divorce families, the child’s desire to change living arrangements may come as surprise several years after the initial divorce. While parents expect their children to grow and change, hearing a child express the wish to live with their other parent can still carry an emotional sting. Experts suggest, though, there may some underlying reasons for a child, particularly one in adolescence, to be seeking a change in their living situation.

Dallas-based marriage and family therapist Stephanie Burchell acknowledges that “some parents may experience feelings of rejection, disloyalty, and abandonment,” but points out that the child may simply wish to establish or reestablish a familial connection with the other parent. It may be possible, however, the child is looking for something he or she does not feel is not being provided in the current home.

Child psychologist Michelle New has observed that feelings of this nature are most common in adolescents who are hoping their other parent’s home may offer more freedom and less structure. She says that it is possible, though, “they may simply fall prey to the common wish for the ‘other side’ where the grass is always greener.” For this reason, she cautions parents about quickly giving into their child’s wishes, as the child can just as quickly change their mind back.

Divorcing a spouse does not equate to the divorcing the children, Burchell says, but, “children will remain loyal to parents who are loving and supportive of their child’s choices.”  She recommends that, regardless of the child’s desires, divorced parents should avoid speaking negatively of each other. Instead, she advises, “Give your child permission to have a loving, satisfying relationship with the other parent.” No matter which parent’s house the child calls home, it is important for both parents to maintain an active role in the child’s life.

Finally, New suggests making sure legal details are being addressed as well. This is where we can help. If you are dealing with questions about child custody after your divorce, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We will review your case and can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your rights are being protected.