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Can my ex change our child’s appearance without my permission?

Kids change every day. They get older, their tastes and personalities change, and they want to try new things. It can be a challenge for parents to adjust to these changes, especially when they alter how moms and dads see their children.

This is why it can be so upsetting when parents share custody and one parent allows or makes changes to a child’s appearance without consulting the other parent. To avoid these situations, it can be crucial to plan ahead.

Get your rules in writing

One of the simplest ways to prevent an ex from making drastic changes to a child’s appearance is to agree to include a clause in a Separation Agreement or court order addressing such behavior.

To do this, ensure both parents have the right to make day-to-day decisions regarding the child in the first place. Then, be specific about the types of changes both of you want to have input on. This can include a dramatic haircut, a piercing, a tattoo and/or elective surgery to alter the child’s appearance. It might also include the way parents dress a child, if the attire conflicts with a parent’s personal, cultural or religious beliefs.

Having the rules in writing can make it easier for parents to avoid conflict.

Consider your child’s wishes

As children get older, expect them to have their own opinions on their appearance. Under these circumstances, consider your child’s wishes and focus on setting boundaries with him or her. If appropriate, talk to your ex about your child’s wishes and think about mutually adjusting the rules to reflect the reasonable opinion of your child.

Knowing the limits

If parents share custody and both have the right to make decisions about a child’s life, then discussing things like dramatic haircuts and other changes to his or her appearance is essential. However, keep in mind that parents should be reasonable about their expectations, and remember that children will grow and change. 

That said, a parent who makes or allows changes that compromise a child’s safety, mental health or best interests without permission from the other parent can face legal action, so it is important for parents to set the rules right away and discuss any conflicts with an attorney.