Divorce is a painful time for everyone. You will likely have been put through the emotional wringer having battled your ex-partner over household possessions, and having come to terms with the end of your relationship. Meanwhile, your children will likely be going through something just as difficult, if not more so. That’s because your children are now the children of divorce. Not only has the illusion of perfect matrimony been shattered, but they now have no single home and may feel they have to choose who to live with after the divorce. They may feel that they must choose between their parents, and face a future of bitter comments and being shipped from one household to another.
Does My Teenager Get to Choose Who to Live With After Divorce?
How you handle the initial stages when creating the new living arrangements will likely set the tone for years to come. It is essential you get this right. With that said: where should your teenager live? Is it up to them? Is it up to you?
There are two answers to this question: there is whether or not your teenager legally gets to decide where they live, and there is whether or not your teenager practically gets to decide.
That is to say, that while the law might say one thing, the reality might be different. You might find that it’s easier to let your teenager’s input be the guiding factor in who to live with after divorce!
After all, there is no official age limit in Nebraska at which children get to decide where they live after the divorce. But, if a child is an older teen (16 and up), the Judge is likely going to give a lot of weight to the teen’s preferences as to who they want to live with as long as the teen has some reason for their decision and neither home is unsafe. The older teen’s preference is often the overall deciding factor, even if the judge might otherwise think the other parent’s home is a better fit.
The older teen wants to live with a parent that has fewer rules and fewer chores, and less conflict due to this. Although the judge might think the other parent’s home could be a better fit, the judge may allow the child their choice as long as the home is overall safe. The teen might decide to live with one parent for purely logistical reasons (closer to school) or because they have more shared interests with one parent. They might ask to split time between the two of you.
Although many judges will still hear and consider a younger teen’s opinion as to where they want to live, a child not yet in high school isn’t likely going to get a lot of say in where they live. As the parents, you will have the right to tell your child where they will live. And if you can’t come to an agreement with your other half, then you may need to argue this in court for the judge to decide.
Keep in mind that the latter option should be the very last choice. This will set a bad tone for your child’s life going forward. This may create a precedent for arguments, disagreements, and legal intrusion. Your child should feel as though they are still part of a loving family. Therefore, forcing the judge to decide at trial should be a last resort.
Letting Your Teenager Decide
While you might have the law on your side if you agree together that your child should live with one parent or the other, the truth is that the teenager in question may still hold a lot of the cards in deciding who to live with after a divorce. After all, your teenager can make life very difficult for you, should they decide that they don’t want to live with you!
If your teenager is unhappy, then they can very easily behave in a manner that may make you wish they didn’t live with you. Even if this isn’t intentional, you don’t want to harm them more than necessary.
The important thing to remember is that this isn’t about you.
It’s not a matter of “winning” the dispute, or about who your child loves more. This is about letting your teen have input as to where their home is going to be, and what is likely to be best for them. That’s why it’s so crucial that you let your teen have a say in where they will be happiest, as far as is possible. Ideally, this should feel like a decision that you all come to together.
And then there are the many practical aspects to consider. What if you have more than one child and they want to live in different places? Should you consider separating them? What if there are practical advantages to living with one parent? What if it is logistically very difficult if they want to live with the parent of their choosing? It may be possible that only one can drive, and/or maybe only one life nearer to their school and the parent’s work hours conflict with helping transport to school or sports.
These are all discussions to be had and every case will be different. Just make sure that you ensure your teen feels they played a role in those discussions, that their voice was heard, and that you behave in a civil manner for their sake.
Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha
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