Remembering the Child When Determining Custody and Visitation
The process of getting divorced is a time of family upheaval. If there are kids involved, the security of the household could become uncertain. It is not unusual for children to have some emotional problems and exhibit physical symptoms of stress during a divorce, so be sure to consider what’s best for them.
The Needs of Young Children
Determining the best plan for visitation and custody can also be a challenge. Some parents might become selfish, however, and try to get the child to pick one side or the other. They may become controlling, turning the custody arrangement into an unpleasant and awkward time for the child. Children of different ages have different needs when it comes to custody. It’s important that you consider the overall well-being of your child when discussing custody and visitation.
Children who are 8 and younger appreciate an established routine. The divorce will break that routine, changing schedules and even changing schools. As a parent, you can help establish a new routine for your child. While you can ask for input, young children are used to living in a framework established by the adults in their lives. Make it clear where they are going to be and when. It might be helpful to mark things out on a calendar. That way, your child knows what to expect in the days ahead.
Keep in mind that your children are not somehow betraying you by going to your ex-partner’s house. So long as they are safe, they should have a healthy relationship with your ex just as they need a healthy relationship with you. Playing games with the schedule can lead to some very upset and confused children.
The Needs of Older Elementary Children
In the upper elementary years, children will start trying to gain some independence. Routine is still important, but they’ll be more flexible when special occasions arise. This is the age where sleepovers may happen on your weekend. You may also find that your child is more interested in connecting with friends than hanging out with you. Again, this behavior is not meant as an insult but is a natural part of any child’s social growth. If you want to have your child around, you might consider hosting the sleepover or another gathering of friends.
This is also a time when you want to maintain a working relationship with your former partner. Although the custody agreement remains in place in case there is a dispute, you both should develop some flexibility on a practical level. For the sake of the child, there may need to be some trading and rearranging of visitation time.
The Needs of Teenagers
When children reach the teenage years, it can be very difficult to design a consistent custody arrangement. The needs of a teenager are quite different from the needs of younger children. By now, your children have relationships outside the home. In fact, by the teenage years, those relationships are often where they look for approval and acceptance. You may find it a challenge to get some quality parent-child time if your kid is involved in sports and other events. Sometimes, you may feel like you’re left out of the process or pushed out of your child’s life.
This is not a reflection on your child’s love for you. Instead, it’s part of growing up. One of the dangers during this period is a parent who tries to force a relationship just at the time when the child is looking for independence. Your child is making the transition toward adulthood. Now is the time to simply be available. Remaining a calm presence now will help you minimize your child’s stress and improve your relationship with your child in the future.
At Morgenstern & Rochester, we recognize the importance of a fair child custody and visitation arrangement for separated parents. Our staff can handle this delicate discussion in a professional and equitable way. For more information, contact our Cherry Hill office at 856-489-6200.