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Birmingham, Mich. – Nov. 6, 2014 – The fall season can mean more than the leaves changing colors and daylight savings time. According to Jessica Woll, managing partner of Woll & Woll, P.C., a Michigan-based divorce and family law firm with a niche expertise in complex family law issues, it’s not uncommon for teens of divorced parents to want a change in their parenting schedule once the school year is underway.
“It’s not unusual for teenagers to want to go live with the other parent, that perhaps had less parenting time, as they begin to mature and grow,” Woll said. “Parents need to realize that a custody arrangement developed when a child is in elementary school or even younger may not be the best option when the child reaches middle school or high school because their needs change.”
For instance, a boy who was only six when his parents got divorced and has lived with his mom since then may develop a need to spend more time with his father when reaching puberty; just as a girl who was four when her parents got divorced and lived with dad may want to go live with mom when reaching her teen years, says Woll.
Woll sees several of these cases per year in her firm and tells parents of teens wanting to change an existing parenting plan to focus on what is best for the child.
“I constantly remind my clients that a child wanting to go live primarily with the other parent, while hard, should not be taken personally,” Woll said. “Parents need to remain child-centric in determining what the best living arrangement is for the child, not what is most convenient or easiest to handle as the parent.”
Woll also suggests letting the teen be a part of the conversation when determining the new living arrangement.
“If the child is mature enough to request spending more time with the other parent and provides good reasons to do so, the child should be involved in the discussion,” Woll said. “Children are innocent bystanders in the divorce process yet their lives get rearranged without their input. If the teen has sound reasons for needing to reexamine the custody arrangement, the parents should respect their child’s feelings and interests and allow him or her to be part of the conversation and decision. When a teen wants to live with the other parent simply because they think they will be able to get away with things, that’s a different story!”
Lastly, try to stay out of court to decide new living arrangements if possible, Woll advises.
“The more civil the parties can remain in this discussion the better,” Woll said. “Families don’t want to go back to court; not only is it a costly endeavor, it also tends to bring up all the hurt and ill feelings from the original divorce process.”
About Woll & Woll, P.C.
Celebrating 20 years as a firm in 2014, Woll & Woll, P.C. specializes in divorce and family law, including legal separation, post-judgment of divorce matters, removal of domicile actions, stepparent adoption, custody, child support, paternity and other family issues. Learn more here.