Teen daughter not wanting to go to dad’s house anymore
Hello, I have a 10 year old and 14 year old daughter who go to their dad’s house every other weekend. My 14 year old has not been wanting to go over there for over a year now. She’s not very close with her dad and just wants to be home ( my house). My ex husband feels that she can make her own decision once she’s 16 but I feel like she’s old enough and mature enough to make it for herself now. I haven’t approached the subject with him recently as I don’t like to stir the pot without gathering some information first. Our current parenting arrangement is court ordered stating that the kids are with him every other Saturday Sunday Monday. I dread anything having to do with court and am wondering is this my only course to let my daughter make her own choice? And if we did go to court, is it common for a 14 year old to be granted this if I were to ask this of a judge? Would I be better off waiting until she’s 15? Or 16? I know there are no definite answers but just wondering what people’s real life experiences are. Especially with self representation instead of a lawyer. Thank you! Jodie
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My daughter refused at around 13. She would sit in her bedroom. The police aren't going to enforce a court order against a 14-year-old. Btw, your ex sounds pretty reasonable.
I have to strongly disagree with the post below. I know a parent who allowed their 14 year old to skip court ordered visitation and was accused (successfully) of attempting parental alienation, so they paid legal fees and lost their credibility in court, and the child was not allowed to choose. Going down this path seems really risky and also misses the point. WHY is this child refusing to see her father? Is there a reason that you need to fully understand? Does her dad need to understand? Why not get a therapist for your child and also line up family therapy so you can all work on this together, supportively? Assuming a parent isn't abusive, children need both parents in their lives and it will damage her to lose this critically important person as she grows up. What will this teach her about fatherhood and how men behave? Why not pour your energy into giving her the gift of knowing that her parents will work together to make sure she's super happy in both homes? My ex and I live separately and have done exactly this. Nothing is perfect, and in many ways my child prefers his primary house (mine) but we both do everything in our power to make both houses his home and I *always* stress how much his dad loves him and needs to be with him. We teach and model compassion and closeness. There are many steps you both can take to change this situation, so she doesn't hit her mid-20s, start to view the situation through an adult's eyes, and ask why her Dad didn't fight for her and why her mom minimized such a core relationship.
I don't know the legal answer to the question. I also don't know your relationship with your ex. But, I do know this is very typical teenager behavior. I wonder if you can have a conversation with your ex. "I don't want you to turn into the bad guy here or me for that matter. She's flexing her teenager independence. I wonder if you and she (and I can be there too if you would like) can sit down and have a conversation about a compromise? I think if we force the issue, she's going to rebel against us both. But, if we give her some power, she just might come around...." Make the "enemy" teenager-dom and not you or ex or daughter. This is a natural phase of life she is going through and how you respond will determine how she behaves moving forward. (and I know my friend who lives in another state went through the same thing when her kid was 14 and it did go to court because she does not have a good relationship with her ex, and the judge ruled to go by the wishes of the teenager who was determined to be mature enough to make the decision. Don't know if CA would be different, though)
My 2 sons were able to make their own decisions at 13 & 11. (They had to meet with a court appointed mediator who made the decision that they were mature enough to be heard) at that time, my boys decided they wanted to stay with me full time. I believe the courts say 14 is old enough for the child to make their own decisions. If you have an attorney, ask and make sure. It’s all about the child’s well being in the divorce process. You’re doing a great job!
I feel for your ex! It's not unusual for teens to resist switching homes to accommodate their parents' separation and who could blame them. Your 14-year-old probably wants to remain on familiar territory. Could you arrange a trade with your ex, so that he moves into your place during the weekend visitation and you move into his place. Obviously that's highly inconvenient, for both of you but it sounds like your 14-year-old feels inconvenienced and has suffered for it. Your kids might thank you both for it one day.
I agonized over a very similar situation for years and have some thoughts to share, FWIW.
My daughter was actually supposed to go back and forth weekly starting about age 11 and her dad was quite zealous in guarding this arrangement until age 18. However we didn't have a written custody plan so there was little he could do if she simply refused to go, as she often did as she got older.
I don't think there's a simple answer but I did find some help reading this book: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Homes-One-Childhood-Parenting/dp/1594634157
I believe in California the child can state a preference to the judge at 14, though that is not the ultimate deciding factor-
I ended up deciding how to handle it based on what I considered to be in the best interest of my child--
--I did not want to make this more adversarial, expensive, or inflexible than necessary (meaning I wanted to avoid court)
--I absolutely did think it was important for my daughter to have some kind of relationship and ongoing regular contact with her father (I didn't have a father growing up and felt the absence and consequences keenly later in life). For this reason, I would encourage her to spend time with him and continue regular visits, even though the benefits were not always clear to her at the time.
-- I also thought it was important for my daughter to find and express her voice and preferences, even though I did not want her to feel that she was in charge of the final decision (I think that should be a parental decision as it seems to me like a potential burden for the child). Speaking up on her own behalf was an important milestone for my daughter.
So for us it was somewhat of a moving target and evolved over the years. It wasn't easy or conflict free, but kind of worked.
There were certain things which she didn't like about being at her dad's related to logistics, convenience, etc, which he was able to somewhat mitigate as we talked about it more. Other things he couldn't (or wouldn't) change and over time she came to spend much more time with me. But they still have a reasonable connection which I hope will be durable, despite the divorce.
Maybe your ex-husband would be willing to consider ways he might cultivate more closeness with her, so that it would seem like more of a treat than a sacrifice to see him every other weekend. ultimately it's about the relationship, not the custody schedule.
good luck! it's definitely not easy.
It might be that having a 10-year-old makes a difference in your situation. Maybe a 1-hour consult with a lawyer would help.