Teenager's Decision on Custody

wow, this is such a tough one. Is it possible your daughter really wants to stay and finish up high school where she has friends and a history at this very crucial age? Is it just as possible that her father is finally in a position to offer her a relationship that she obviously longs for? The question is, do you want to refuse her those opportunities and suffer the consequences?

Yes to both possibilities. She definately wants to finish high school with her old friends. She would absolutely like more of a relationship with her dad. The arrangement is much more appealing to her. I can forsee an emotional battle here that could have negative consequences on my relationship with her. By the way, we have always had a very good relationship.

My problem with it all is:

  1. He has no history of any stability with her and has only known his girlfriend a few months. Anything could happen to that relationship.

  2. I question the environment, (maybe that is being too morally elite?), and the level of committment it takes to supervise teenagers.

I can see your dilemma…Ok think about the possibilities here.

  1. You flat out refuse to let your daughter do this because of your ex’s living/dating situation, supervision, and the fact that your daughter will be away from you. Your ex decides to fight you for custody. In all reality you would not go directly to court over this - it would first have to go through some sort of mediation/counseling before it ever gets in front of a judge. This could take months. They would take into consideration your daughter’s desires at that age. In the meantime where is your daughter? At your home angry at you? At your ex’s? How much money are you going to have to spend over this?
  2. You decide to give this a chance on a trial basis and maybe the summer is the trial. Talk to your ex about your house rules for your daughter for the summer so she knows that going from one house to another is not going to be vastly different. e.g. Dad lets her do whatever/whenever and mom is the disciplinarian. Do you have standards for things like dating, curfew etc that you can both agree on? Let your daughter know that you are communicating about this.

She may find that life with dad is not all that great and she wants to come back to you and start the new school. If she decides to stay with dad realize that you have done a good job raising a daughter who feels secure about loving both of her parents. She is not rejecting you, she’s trying to find her dad.

This is an excellent posting I can see great points on both sides of this.
I have a 14 year old daughter and she does not want to even stay with her mother and my son 12 is still a little young to fend for himself but has the same feels as my daughter. I am wanting to go back to court and have them full time I have them one week on one week off. I have the martial home and I live in the school district now I here that the ex wants to move great for her but wouldnt she lose custody of the children if she does this? I think this would be a great thing not just for the children but her aswell she can move Hmm I think I am going to answer my own question I need to talk to her hope she will listen.
Sounds like you lighthouse1 need to talk to the ex aswell and find what is the best thing for your daughter not you its hard I can see this I know its going to happen to me.
Good luck to you

The reason I wrote what I did is because we have a teen (17 going on 30) we claims that mom treats her as an equal with apparently no rules or curfews so why would she want to live with dad,even for weekends as he expects her home at a certain time and wants her to call if she changes plans and asks for phone numbers of friends. Mom has decided to take the path of least resistance and we cannot (and will not) compete with that. We expect that it will be years before we see the daughter for any length of time. We just pray that she emerges from all of this safely and a wiser person.

Thank you MAL and all. It is good to get other perspectives. The best advice I ever received about raising teenagers is that parents have to “be mature.” Of course the best interest of the child is paramount. I am anxious to read the attorney’s response, although I suspect there are no black and white answers.

The hardest part of this situation is that you probably feel like you daughter is choosing him over you. The last two years of high school are very important to the social life of a teenager. These are kids she went to school with for years. She knows where she fits in and is confident in her hirarchy at the school. I’m sure you felt the twinge when she announced the new girlfriend is “really cool”. This may be her way of trying make you more open to the idea of letting her stay. But with trying to convince you, she inadvertantly poured salt into the wound. She doesn’t seem to have a solid relationship with her daddy. I will speak from experience, every little girl wants to be a daddy’s girl. Even as young women we tend to have fairytale images of our dads. Only looking the fairytale in the face will bring a reality check. Give her a two semester test run. Give her the responsibility of making it work if she wants it that bad. Do not give up custody, but allow him the chance to step and be the daddy she needs. He will either step up or not. Either way you are being “fair” to both your daughter and your ex. Keep in contact with the school, have friend’s parents be your eyes and ears. Let your daughter know what you expect of her and what would happen if she doesn’t live up to your expectations. Also let your ex know those standards. And that you will bring her back to you if you feel she is not being taken care of. Put the expectations in writing, signed by all involved. At 16 a child has quite a bit of influence in her own life, choosing where to live, while not 100%, does factor in greatly. It sucks to be in this situation, especially after dealing with a life threatening disease. The fact is, she will probably go and stay with her dad. You can either make it a growing experience or make it a fighting experience. Good Luck

I think trbotina has hit the nail on the head. I think the idea of being in touch with teachers and parents at the school to keep an eye on things is a great one. Besides, those parents she lived with are your friends anyway, right? Make it a dialogue instead of a fight. I like the idea of drawing up an agreement between all of the parties, but not having to involve lawyers. I think if you handle this in a positive way it could end up benefitting everyone.

I would be curious to know if a clause could be added to any agreement about who is to do the parenting, the ex or the new girlfriend? If the father wants to parent, I am all for it… IF he supervises, checks in with her, monitors her activities, gets to know her friends, etc. - and all the things a good parent does. If the new girlfriend is doing the parenting I would veto this plan in a second, often the new girlfriend plays “Super Mom” in an effort to win over the father by ‘winning over’ the child. The opportunity to bond with her father is not there, and she NEEDS one of her parents actively involved in her life, not the new girlfriend who could be out of the picture in the blink of an eye.

Can a clause be added about who does the parenting, with some sort of mechanism for assurance??

I really don’t think you want to mess around here with the girlfriend/step-parent issue. I’m a step-parent and I leave parenting to my husband, especially for the teens, although we do talk about things and I do give input. It could be that this woman is very nice and genuine and knows better than to try and parent and the “cool” part is just that she is willing to befriend the daughter and not trying to be another parent in her life. Many parents are threatened by step-parents/new girlfriends/boyfriends and they shouldn’t be.
This ex may benefit from the support of a wise girlfriend and end up being a better dad for it…or maybe the relationship will break up…who knows…
Clauses to try and force the ex to be a parent aren’t going to work and are just going to create more animosity and stress in the situation and you will be perceived as being petty and controlling.

Yes, I understand from the very short-time I have known about all this, that some mutual friends whom I respect feel the new girlfriend is a very nice person. But, since she has only been involved such a short time, no one really knows her very well. My guess is that she is having a stabilizing, positive effect on my former spouse, since he never even tried to be a parent before she was in the picture. I am not worried about her. I am happy for my daughter to have positive female role models, and my hope is that is what she will turn out to be. It is his stability I worry about, because of his known history and behavior.

I like all of your suggestions about an agreement, though. I hope the attorney comments on that if she gets to this question.

I do, as a mother, still worry about the structure. Afterall, we had an agreement before, and he did not come close to following it…

Thanks again.

A judge will often listen to the needs and wishes of the children. The more mature and articulate the child is, the more weight the Judge will give to their preferences. However, there is no magic age when a child can choose for themselves. The court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. In your particular case it is hard to give you an opinion about what a Judge may due based on the factors you described in your post. However, her father’s lack of a previous history with yoru daughter, drinking, erratic visitation, and unstable relationship are all factors that will play against him if he were to seek custody. Have you tried talking to your daughter about this? I wish you the best of luck.

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax


The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service only, a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action. The information posted on this forum is available for public viewing and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship with any individual. These answers are provided for informational purposes only, a person should consult with their own individual legal counsel before taking any action that could affect their legal rights or obligations.

I understand your issue with instability. It is scary having your child somewhere you can’t check up on them to make sure everyting is as it should be. That is where the agreement should come in. Make it known that instability will not be tolerated. You should be specific. Put the responsibility in the hands of your ex and your daughter to see that a structured environment is there. If you feel better about it, have “reviews” at the end of each semester. ( grades usually are the first to reflect a problem) Be reasonable though ( there will be things you’d have done different). If he is unstable, it will show up pretty fast. And if he doesn’t follow through this time, then your daughter won’t feel you tried to “keep her from her friends” (given a teenage girl’s prespective, this is what’s most important) and if he does stand up and be a father, you have given her the chance to respect him. As far as the comment made about the step/girlfriend… That is a sticky situation. She should have authority over your daughter while she is under her roof. With your daughter being 16, there shouldn’t be a need for any punishment that goes beyond restriction. You should also make clear that you aren’t going to be pulled into the game of her bouncing back and forth if one parent doesn’t give her what she wants. Give them the responsibility to make it work or not. Good Luck

Just wanted to chime in on this. mal and trbotina pretty much have the same responses I had being a stepmother. It’s a difficult situation sometimes but my husband was never given the opportunity to be a father to his children prior to him and his ex divorcing. I can only imagine what it will be like when they are teenagers, which is coming up quicker than I would like.
It may be easier for your ex to get to know your daughter now that she’s a little older. I believe everyone deserves a second chance with their family if they sincerely want it. But I agree with trbotina that I would “keep tabs” so to speak and let them know that you are going to be checking up. Be realistic in that the rules at your ex’s house may be different, more relaxed or even more strict, but as long as the basics are covered, there’s no bouncing back and forth and the lines of communication are open the chance should be given. If you are able to, and it doesn’t bother you, talk to the girlfriend. That may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it may make you feel better to get to know her also, if she’s going to be in your daughter’s life…just a suggestion.

Actually Stepmother, I have considered talking to the girlfriend. I think it is important that I know her if she is to be involved in my daughter’s life. I was playing that back and forth in my mind – I have nothing against her, afterall. But I also did not want to put her in an awkward position. But what the heck – all of this is awkward anyway, so I think I will just make the first move and try to get to know her a bit. I know I must be careful that the heavy parenting stuff remains between my ex and me, though. But she does seem to be more stable than him. It is good to hear from you step parents out there. My husband’s children are grown so I never had you experiences. Of course this woman is not an actual step parent – I guess a “step girlfriend” or some such title is appropriate! The bottom line is that whether this situation occurs or not, she will be involved with my daughter and I feel an obligation to know her. thanks.

Lighthouse… since you are remarried I am optimistic that your talk w/ the girlfriend will go well. I think I would let your ex know, in a non-threatening way, that you are open to discussing the idea of your daughter staying with him and would like to briefly meet his girlfriend. He doesn’t have to have your ok on who he dates but your desire to meet her is based on the fact that they will be living together w/ your daughter in the house - and try to keep your judgements about this situation out of it. I might even start out w/ a simple note to this woman inviting her to coffee. Maybe make it a very low-key meeting over coffee and just offer her a sort of “open-door” policy if she has any questions or concerns about your daughter. I would keep any conversation between the two of you focused strictly on your daughter.

Can you advise how much influence a teenager (16) can have in requesting which parent they live with? I have always had physical custody of my daughter (4 years now). Her father never kept to the joint custody time agreement. He was always too busy, did not want to adhere to a schedule, only had a one-bedroom apartment etc… I estimate he has cared for her about 1/10 of the agreed time. He never went to her school events, sports activities, or anything. I tried to enforce the agreement through the years, but eventually just let it go, so as not to upset my daughter, or make her feel like she was not wanted. He also drank a lot (about 7-10 drinks a day at the time.)

I remarried and we have provided a very good home, and my daughter does well in school, as well as socially. We are financially secure. But – here’s the hard part – we moved 5 hours away for very difficult job and medical reasons this winter. (I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my company allowed me to move to a position that would better accomodate the chemotherapy schedule, and there was also a promotion involved for my husband). I am doing fine now, thank goodness. I let my daughter stay and finish the semester with some good friends of mine while I finished the chemo.(Her dad refused to let her stay with him because he did not want to help me in any way). Although we did not want to move while she was in highschool, the family circumstances simply led to a tough decision.

Now my daughter is visiting her dad for three weeks this summer (that’s all he was “available” – but it is far more time than any summer we lived near him.) She is having a wonderful time visiting both him and her old freinds. He has now met a “really cool” (my daughter’s words) woman and they have rented a house in my daughter’s old school district where he and the woman plan to move in together next week. They are not married and have known each other about three months. And, they have invited my daughter to live with them full-time. Of course she wants to, especially since it means she can stay near her old friends. It is a beautiful part of town where the homes are very nice.

Earlier this week, they all three went to an attorney who advised my ex-spouse to take her to a licensed therapist and get a statement from the therapist to take to court, detailing why my daughter wants to now live with her dad. The attorney advised my daughter that since she was 16, the judge would let her choose where to live. Can this possibly be true? I can not believe she has only been away two weeks and all this has occured.

I do plan to talk to an attorney, but wanted to see what you all thought first.
Thank you very much.