Should your child get a say in custody and visitation?

Divorce brings major changes that can be hard for children to accept. When it is time to exchange custody and your child does not want to go with your ex, you might be tempted to give in to your child’s wishes.

Giving children too much control can have long-term consequences. Fortunately, there are healthier ways to help your children adjust to their new normal.

Refer to your parenting plan

Divorced parents in California must have a parenting plan that outlines custody and parenting time arrangements. When determining custody, a judge may take your child’s preference into account if he or she is mature enough to express a reasonable preference.

Once the judge approves your plan, it is a legal order you must adhere to. Generally, your child’s wishes are not a valid reason to deviate from your parenting time schedule.

Encourage parental bonds

It can be difficult to make your child go with your ex when he or she does not want to. In the long run, however, it is generally in the best interest of your child to spend time with both parents. If you interfere in this relationship by letting your child make visitation decisions, your ex may accuse you of parental alienation, a serious accusation that can affect your own relationship with your child.

Give your child appropriate choices

Letting your child make age-appropriate decisions can make big changes feel less scary. For example, you might let your child choose which clothes or toys to bring to your ex’s house or let your child choose bedding and decorations for his or her new room.

Change can be hard for children. You can ease the transition by consistently following your parenting plan and offering age-appropriate choices to make your child feel empowered.