What to do when your teenager wants to move in with your ex-spouse
Teenagers, generally speaking, are sometimes difficult to read. They are moody, change their minds often, and act out when they feel upset or as a cry for attention. So if your teenager decides he or she wants to live full-time with your ex, it can be difficult to tell the difference between expected adolescent behavior and them manipulating you in order to get what they want. However, sometimes your teenagers might actually want to live with your ex, and depending on the facts perhaps they should be allowed to. It is important to not jump to any conclusions and completely shut down their idea. Listen to them and then make an informed adult decision as their parent.
- spend time with your teenager, and talk about why they want to live with your ex
- ask how much time they want to spend at your house
- call your ex-spouse to inform them of the change your child wants to make
- always back up the agreement in writing
- understand where the decision is coming from
- assume your ex will agree
- just say yes or no
- put up up road-blocks to the move
- base the decision on their age
- call your lawyer unless it is absolutely necessary
Do spend time with your teenager, and talk about why they want to live with your ex
Be prepared to listen to them. They are clearly feeling a lot of emotions, so listen to their feelings and opinions. They may want to live with your ex because there are certain aspects to living with you that they dislike. Or perhaps they miss their other parent and have feelings of guilt if they don’t spend a lot of time with them. These are all factors that might play into your child wanting to move in with your ex. Don’t shut them down because you are taking it personally.
Do ask how much time they want to spend at your house
Find out if they want to spend all their time at your ex’s house. How do they want to split their time? Suggest to your teenager that you, your ex, and them sit down together to discuss the possibilities, pointing out to the teenager that it will require major change. The teen must also be aware that both parents must agree and only they can come to a final decision, mutually.
Do call your ex-spouse to inform them of the change your child wants to make
The teenager assumes that the ex-spouse is elated to have him or her come live with them. Your ex is used to the current situation you have agreed on, whether it is 50/50 timeshare, or only on weekends, etc. so making this change will greatly affect them. Remember that this agreement was made in court, and you both mutually agreed to comply with it, so make sure they are on board because legally they are not required to be. Also, make sure your teenager knows this. They might want to move in with their other parent, but they need to be prepared for the reality that that may not happen.
Do always back up the agreement in writing
A verbal agreement is not binding, always back it up in writing. If your ex agrees to changing the parameters of your timeshare agreement, get it down in writing and have it notarized. This will save you headaches down the road if your ex decides to change their mind.
Do understand where the decision is coming from
Teens are by nature tumultuous. It’s their bodies, minds, and attitudes that are changing. Try to understand how much of this decision is based on healthy rebellion, and how much is genuine cause for concern. Both parents need to be involved in the discussion.
Do not assume your ex will agree
Assuming that your ex-spouse is willing to have the teenager is a high risk assumption. Do not assume that your ex is going to accept this development with open arms. They, like you, have adapted to a certain lifestyle, and this change will alter that lifestyle. They might be ecstatic to have their kid come live with them permanently, or more often, depending on the new agreement you draft. Or they might be unwilling, which is also their right.
Do not just say yes or no
This is not a decision that can be made by simply answering “yes” or “no.” There are many factors to take into consideration. Saying no right away will show your teenager that you are unwilling to hear anything they have to say, and they might act out in other ways. In the same regard, saying yes right away without consulting with your ex makes you seem inconsiderate and irresponsible. As explained in the do’s above, make sure that you listen to your child, take their feelings into consideration, and consult with your ex to see if they are on board for this change.
Do not put up up road-blocks to the move
If your teenager tells you they rather live with their other parent, you might take offense to that and feel upset and betrayed on some level. This may cause you to subconsciously, or consciously, put up road-blocks to stop them from moving. You may bad mouth their other parent, bribe them, or even go as far as tell them your ex does not want them to move in with them. If you have already decided that your child is doing this for valid reasons, and not to spite you, then be open to the idea and don’t take it as a personal attack on you.
Do not base the decision on their age
Teenagers go through a lot of maturing in a short amount of time. A 14 year-old may want to move in with their other parent but may not be able to tell you why. At that age they don’t think things through. However, if your teen is 17 and wants to move in with your ex, they probably thought it through more. They are also able to understand the process, and how it will change the parameters of your timeshare agreement. The maturity level of the teen is what matters.
Do not call your lawyer unless it is absolutely necessary
If you and your ex mutually agree to this new setup, it is not necessary to involve your lawyers right away. Take the time to talk together with your ex and your child, listen to them and voice your own opinions and concerns. When you have come to an agreement everyone is comfortable with, then inform your attorney so they can draft something in writing that both parties will sign.
When your teenager tells you they want to move in with your ex you may feel overwhelmed, upset, betrayed, or hurt. It is important to not let these feelings cloud your judgment. If you are certain your child is doing this for good reasons and not because they are trying to manipulate you, and if your ex is a willing and caring parent that is able to support your child, then you should be open to the possibility. After all, they are also the teens parent. Perhaps your child wants to spend more time with them on a more consistent basis. This is certainly not an attack against you or a way to spite you, rather it is a request coming from a place of love.
Take into consideration all factors, listen to your child, and consult with your ex. Once everyone agrees to the terms of the new timeshare agreement, get it down in writing. Remember to be happy for your teenager, they want this for a reason, and if they are lucky enough to have two parents in the picture, they should be able to spend as much time as they want with both. Having two parents to mold them and give them advice will help them through the tumultuous time that is their teenage years.