Once upon a time the children didn’t need to think about where they lived because mum and dad lived in the same home and under the same roof … and then things changed.
Now mum lives in one home and dad in another.
This new living arrangement kinda turns a kids’ life upside down!
Some divorced families manage somehow to keep their children’s living arrangements mostly intact where mum might live in the family home some days followed by dad moving in for the remaining days. In this scenario, the parents become the ones who constantly move about rather than the kids. While this nomadic habitation scheme is rare and only possible where separated partners are able to still communicate effectively with one another, it is highly unlikely that a court would grant an order that supports this regime, other than by consent.
More commonly, children of divorced partners will typically shuffle between homes in all manner of imaginative schemes … sometimes one week with mum and every other week with dad; sometimes one or two or three or four or five or six nights every week with mum and the rest of the time with dad; sometimes more time with dad; sometimes only a few supervised hours are spent with one parent; and sometimes a parent never gets to spend time with the children at all.
These creative schemes may help the adults to structure their own lives … but how much say do the children have in determining their own living arrangements?
Well no surprises here … the younger they are, the less input they usually have. The inference is that with increased maturity, an older child is deemed to be in a better position to make a call that is in their own interests, so they will typically have more control over where they live as part of a divorce agreement. As they progress further into their teens, their view becomes increasingly persuasive.
Often lawyers and other professionals who work with children affected by divorce will meet with them out of a courtroom setting to try gauge the reasons behind a child’s preference in a non-pressuring way. It is critical that the children’s best interests are objectively considered when formalising final living arrangements rather than being based on more superficial and oftentimes more appealing incentives where they may be allowed to watch TV until late, or allowed to eat lollies in bed, or having access to unrestricted time on electronic devices. This decision should also never be based on a sense of guilt in abandoning a parent, bribes or various other forms of pressure from either parent.
Research confirms that children usually perform better in a loving environment where there are clear boundaries and firm discipline, regardless of whether their parents live under one roof or in different homes.