Raising a teenager can be difficult. So, it is no wonder that determining an effective custody arrangement for teenagers can also be a challenge.
Once children turn 18, they are legal adults. However, even before they turn 18, children might start to chafe against the terms and boundaries of a custody agreement. As your child grows older, here are three factors you should evaluate:
1. Their opinions
In North Carolina, family courts often consider a child’s preference in child custody cases. They will also consider a teenager’s preference regarding which house in which they would like to live. The child’s preference is not always a deciding factor in family courts, but it can be an important one.
Even if your child custody case never went to family court, you may wish to consider your teenager’s opinions and preferences as they age. It might help to sit down together with your co-parent and your teenager to discuss how your child feels the custody arrangement is working and hear out their preferences and thoughts.
2. Their schedules – and yours
You may remember that being a teenager is a busy time. Navigating schoolwork, extracurriculars and social lives can take up most of your child’s time, compared to when they were younger.
It might be necessary to strike a careful balance between your teenager’s busy schedule and your own. For example, your child might have a soccer game while you have a work function. You might have to work out a more flexible parenting schedule with your co-parent and increase the levels of communication in your family to ensure your child gets where they need to be on time.
3. Their freedom – and limitations
Your teenager may be learning to drive or perhaps they already obtained their license. With this newfound freedom, they might go out more with friends.
A driver’s license might feel like a ticket to freedom for your teenager, but if they are not yet 18 then they must still abide by your rules – and the rules of your custody arrangement. You and your co-parent should consider adjusting the rules within your parenting plan, such as:
- Establishing a curfew that applies in both houses
- Designating times your teen should check in with both parents
- Establishing boundaries of where they can drive, and who they can drive with
Emphasize to your child that their safety is your priority. While you want to respect their growth and choices, you also must look out for them. You and your co-parent can adjust the parenting plan and custody arrangement to ensure it works effectively for everyone in your family.