Been awarded custody but your teen doesn't want to live with you?

I did Lisa Decker’s teleseminar tonight where she was speaking with author Ellen Kellner who has written a book about post-divorce parenting in a pro-child way. Ellen’s website is at
One of the things she talked about is the need for parents to guard against having a “divorce-focused reaction” to their former spouse with regard to issues having to do with their children.

Russian Teens

So, that is what I would say a parent should do if his or her teen prefers to live with the other parent. Just think about it through the filter of what is best for your child. Admit that a big part of your objection may be that you resent your ex for being the one the child “prefers” and so your pride is controlling. This is a situation where you simply have to refuse to have a “divorce-focused” reaction to the situation.
Unless a parent is known for abusing a child (and if this were so, the child would be unlikely to want to live with that parent so this post is mute) then the child’s wishes, especially when we are talking about older kids and teens, should be given serious preference over the left behind parent’s pride and need to be in control.
And just because the child prefers to reside with the other parent does not preclude both parents from working cooperatively to help the child make this post-divorce transition to this new family structure. Ellen had some really good points (mostly for younger children but also for teens) about post-divorce co-parenting. She encourages such things as synchronizing your calendars so that you are on the same page with the child’s school calendar and can jointly attend school functions as a united front; and having a united front so that the kids don’t get the sense that it’s “you against him” meaning that the child can’t divide and separate and play each parent against each other.
Don’t let the fact that the child prefers to live with the other parent get in the way of you continuing to work with the other parent to nurture, love, raise and instruct your child.
For younger children, the rules are a bit more malleable. It becomes more important for children under 10, say, for the court to ascertain what is behind the child’s desire to live with one parent rather than the other. Is there parental alienation going on? Does the child prefer the other parent because of the lack of discipline and authority that this parent imparts to the child? Is there abuse by one parent? Alcoholism and drug issues? Why does the child have this preference? The court will likely do an evaluation and depending on the findings, custody will be determined. In other words, the fact that the child does not want to live with you is not always decisive.
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