Teenagers and Visitation: Some Tips to Keep in Mind
Parents going through a divorce with teenagers often face more difficulty working out a visitation schedule than do parents with young children. For most teenagers, friends, sports, cars, dating and social activities take priority over everything else and a shared visitation schedule can get in the way of these priorities. Many parents are faced with the dilemma of a teenager who does not want to visit the other parent. Often this is because his or her friends don't live near the other parent, there is some activity that the teenager does not want to miss, or it is simply inconvenient. So how should parents deal with a teenager who is refusing to comply with court ordered visitation? An article found on this website suggests the following tips:
Be Flexible. As kids enter their teen years, they are often involved in more activities than they were during elementary school. They also spend more time with friends. As Brette McWhorter Sember points out in her article on "Parenting Teenagers During Divorce," during your marriage, you probably did not tell your daughter that she had to skip her field hockey game because you wanted to spend time with her and you probably didn't tell your son that he couldn't go to the dance on Friday night because his Father wanted to spend time with him. The same should be true even though you and your spouse are no longer together. If your teenager has an activity scheduled during your visitation time, refusing to allow him to participate may not be the best option. Although you want to spend time with your child, it is important to allow him or her to continue to participate in regularly scheduled activities.
Establish Rules. Although it is important that a teenager is allowed to participate in activities during both parent's custodial time, parents should keep in mind that teenagers are not yet adults and should be encouraged to spend time with both parents. If a set schedule does not work for your teenager, it might be a better idea to set up a minimum number of visits per week or month. That way, the teenager has more control over when the visits take place, but at the same time, both parents are assured their time with the teenager.
Keep in Touch. Most teenagers are rarely without a cell phone and are constantly making calls, texting, instant messaging, and emailing. Keeping in touch with your teenager through these avenues may make it easier for non custodial parents to keep up with their teenager's day to day life.
Get Counseling. Being a teenager is difficult enough on its own. Throw in a divorce and some teenagers become impossible to deal with. If your teenager is refusing to go to one parent's home or is having problems during visitation at one parent's home, counseling may be a useful option. Parents can also suggest family counseling, where the parent and the teen go to counseling together to work towards a better relationship.
Work Together. Having a flexible visitation schedule will require parents to work together to accommodate the teenager. Parents should also work together to establish rules and limits for the teenager so that expectations are consistent no matter which parent is caring for the teenager.
Regardless of your child's age, working out a custody visitation schedule can often be challenging and complex. At Mello & Pickering, LLP we can work with you to determine what works for your family and advocate for your position. Call us for a free 20 minute phone consultation or an in person meeting at (408) 288-7800.