Divorce is one of the most stressful things you can experience as an adult or child. If you've gone through a custody dispute, the situation can be even more emotionally fraught. But now that you've won custody of your child, what do you do if they say they want to stay with your ex?
Reassure Your Child
It's important to keep the line of communication open with your child. Even if this is an emotionally devastating blow, your child shared their feelings with you. Sit down and reassure your child that your love is unconditional. Then talk about what prompted the desire to live with their other parent. Do they miss their home and old neighborhood? Do they miss your Saturday morning rituals? Are they just feeling scared and fragile right now?
It's also a good idea to discuss a compromise, if possible. Can your child spend more time with your ex during the week or over the holidays? If you have a good co-parenting relationship, you may want to bring your ex into the conversation to reassure your child that they'll continue to have a close relationship with both of you.
If spending more time, or any time, with their other parent isn't possible, whether because of logistical problems or safety, it's OK to explain that. You don't have to badmouth your co-parent to explain that the court granted you custody because their other parent's living conditions aren't great for a child or because it's not safe.
Don't Take it Personally
It can be devastating to hear that your child doesn't want to stay with you but try not to take this personally. You may have an older child trying to push boundaries and hopes to find a more “flexible” living situation with your ex. Or you may have a younger child who misses their parent. Either way, remember that your child still loves you. They're trying to adjust to a new normal just like you. Try to lead with love and empathy.
Try Family Therapy
Family therapy for you and your child can be a big help during or after a divorce. Sometimes your child needs an opportunity to share their feelings with someone neutral. But if it's not possible for your child to visit or live part-time with their other parent, they may need an opportunity to work through their disappointment and sadness. A skilled therapist can give both of you the tools you need to cope with this major life change.
You Need Skilled Legal Guidance
If you're facing a divorce and child custody dispute in North Carolina, you need experienced legal guidance. Give us a call at 919-719-2785 or contact us online. You need a family lawyer protecting your rights during this process, and we can help.