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Should your kids get to pick where they live after your divorce?

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You love your children, so it’s only natural that you may want them to live with you and not your spouse after your divorce. Your spouse likely feels the same way.

Before you get into a protracted custody battle, however, you may want to consider doing something that psychologists recommend: Ask your children where they want to live.

Many divorced couples choose joint custody, which means that the kids have to be constantly shuffled back and forth between households. Psychologists say that this is probably fine for kids under 10 years of age — especially since children that age need the reassurance that they’re loved and important to both parents. After that age, however, parents who don’t talk to their kids about custody arrangements may be making a serious mistake.

By the time children hit their preteen years — and especially by the time they turn into teenagers — they can have some pretty strong opinions about where they want to live. They also start to crave more control over their lives. Being obligated to accept a custody agreement they had no part in creating can cause resentment and a lot of bitter feelings.

In addition, a joint custody agreement can be disruptive to a teenager’s life. Most teens are wrapped up in school activities — and it can be hard to remain involved in band, choir, theater, sports and clubs when you’re moving households and changing schedules every week. They also don’t need the disruption that comes with dragging their supplies (books, clothing, musical instruments and sports gear) from house to house.

It may be painful to have a discussion about the living situation with your children — especially if you find out one or more wants to live with your ex-spouse. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your teens are in a critical stage of development. How you respond to their needs can set the tone for your future relationship.

Is it time to revisit your custody agreement with your ex-spouse? If your child’s needs have changed, an attorney can help you explore your options.

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