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My Mom is driving me nuts, I want to go live with my Dad. What are my options?

Your rights and responsibilities when you want a change in custody.

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Q: My Mom is driving me crazy and I want to go live with my Dad. Can I go live wherever I want? What are my rights? Help because if I can’t go live with my Dad I’m going to run away!

A: It is a sad reality in this world of broken homes that children often have to choose between their parents. This is the main reason that courts make the final custody decision on behalf of the children, to help mitigate the psychological trauma that can occur when children are forced to choose between two people they love very much. While the courts do take the wishes of the children in to consideration when making custody decisions they also look at the bigger picture and take in to consideration factors that children are either unaware of or do not care about. Things like the parents’ financial stability, mental well being, overall physical health, home life, family and support systems, and criminal history are all factored in to custody decisions. It is not only about the wishes of the child. This however changes as children age.

The older the child the more weight the courts assign to their wishes. Just remember, your parents are individuals just like you with a life of their own outside of their role as your parent, there are likely things about their lives that you are unaware of and some of these things may impact their ability to have custody of you. For this reason you absolutely must discuss any change in residence or custody with BOTH your parents. You don’t have to do it with all of you together, you can have separate discussions with both parents, but you must discuss your feelings on custody with both your parents before making any moves. One caveat if you talk to your parents separately, especially if there is still animosity between them, one or both of them may take your request as a way to get at the other one and they may not be thinking in terms of what is best for you but rather what is likely to make the other parent mad. Hey, it’s not cool but parents are people too and like all people they may not always act appropriately.

So now to answer your question directly; if you want to change which parent you live with you only have two options. Option 1, get your parents to agree to the new arrangement and then they can either file the change with the courts or decide to keep it between themselves on a trial basis (eventually they will have to make it official but when that has to happen is not set in stone). Option 2, get the parent you want to live with to petition the courts on your behalf for a change in custody. These are your only lawful options. Running away will only open a whole can of worms and will make the courts less likely to consider your wishes. In fact, if you run away to be with the other parent and they take you in they can be charged with the criminal offense of custodial interference and this would seriously damage the chances of you ever being allowed to change your custody arrangement. If you act immaturely, which is what the threat of running away is, the courts will look upon you as somebody who is not really all that capable of seeing things clearly. You will come across as somebody who acts rashly and who only thinks of what they want as opposed to what is best. Running away is the teenage equivalent of having a foot stomping temper tantrum and it does not put you in a very good position to be treated as a rational and mature individual.

Unless your life or security of person is at risk it can be difficult to change a custody arrangement without the consent of both parents. Your best course of action is to calmly and succinctly convince your parents that this is not only what you want but also what is in your best interest. This is likely to be an emotional issue for all parties concerned which is why it is very important that you approach the topic in a calm and non-confrontational manner. The parent you want to move away from is likely to feel rejected and you need to be mentally prepared to deal fairly with those feelings. State your case and explain your self very clearly. Know why you want to make the change and take every effort necessary to be able to properly communicate your perspective to your parents. Finally, take a long, hard and honest look at why you want to move. Is it because you don’t like the rules at one household and think the other household will be less stringent? Did you recently have a fight or falling out with your custodial parent? Ensure that this is not a knee-jerk reaction to your custodial parents attempts at parenting you and be sure that it is really what is best. Another sign that you are not really mature enough to see the custody arrangement clearly is if you want a change in order to get your way when your custodial parent has set limits you do not like.

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