When couples with young children divorce, they often work out a joint custody agreement that allows both of them to have time with their kids and be involved in their lives.
As kids enter the teen years, however, their lives change significantly. They often become involved in multiple extracurricular activities. Their school workload increases. They spend more time with friends. The living arrangement where they regularly move every few days or weekly between their parents' homes may become inconvenient for them.
It's during these pre-teen and early teen years that kids may start to bristle at having to split their time in a way that their parents have worked out. They may want to spend more time at one parent's home than the other.
This may have little or nothing to do with how they feel about their parents. One parent may just be closer to school, friends, the soccer field or their favorite afterschool gathering spot.
As difficult as it may be to accept that your child wants to spend more time in your co-parent's home, it's important to let them talk and to listen to and respect their feelings. Ignoring these feelings can cause or exacerbate behavioral issues.
Try to get out of the way of your own feelings and ego. Consider the options for modifying your living arrangements so that your child isn't moving so often. Perhaps instead of splitting the week in half, the child could switch every week or two. Maybe the child could spend the bulk of their time with one parent during the school year and then live primarily with the other parent during the summer.
Just as when you and your co-parent worked out your original custody agreement, your primary focus should be on what's in your child's best interests. In addition to all of the changes discussed above going on in their lives, kids often have a greater need for their parent of the same gender when they reach puberty. On the other hand, this is often the time when mothers and daughters and fathers and sons clash the most. Sometimes, putting a little more space between you can be healthy.
Whatever the situation, if you and your co-parent decide that a modification to your custody agreement is warranted, you're not alone. With the help of their family law attorneys, many parents modify their agreements as their kids grow up.