One of the most distressing aspects of a divorce is the matter of child custody. It's difficult (if not impossible) to remain objective in such a situation, but, obviously, the mental, emotional and physical well being of your children is your top priority. However, should you consult your children during the process? Should they get a say in which parent they live with?

The Importance of Continuity

The goal is to make the dissolution of your marriage as smooth a transition as possible for your children. It's about minimising disruption to the children, even with the absence of a parent from daily life. Custody arrangements should ensure continuity, allowing your child to still attend the same school, see their friends and continue any extracurricular activities. Primary custody can be somewhat influenced by whichever parent is able to provide this continuity for younger children.

Shared Custody

If continuity is possible with shared custody, then this can be an ideal solution for younger children. This allows them to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, without needing to express a preference as to which parent they'd rather live with. It can be a different matter with older children.

The Teenage Years

In the teenage years, a child may well wish to live with one parent instead of the other. It can be hurtful when that parent isn't you, but it's important that your child feels that their opinion is being heard (and respected). If you can't think of a good reason why your child shouldn't begin to spend more time living with their other parent, it might be because no good reason exists. Any changes to living arrangements should be formalised by changing the parenting agreement that was created as part of the divorce process. 

Sole Parental Responsibility

Regardless of your children's ages, if you believe that your former spouse's behaviour and demeanour has the potential to endanger your children, you might be seeking sole parental responsibility (sole custody), or at least limiting your former partner's access to your children. Clearly, this will ultimately determine who your children live with. This is not a decision that should be made lightly, and you should consult a solicitor who knows family law. It's likely that your former partner will dispute your reasons for seeking sole parental responsibility, and the dispute may become a lengthy one. 

Even with the clear objective of making your children's best interests your priority, determining custody arrangements can be a complex time. Contact a local family law lawyer to get more advice.