Settling a child custody dispute can be difficult for parents in Birmingham and elsewhere. When parents go through a divorce, child custody is often based on the best interests of the child. However, does the system we have in place really take that into consideration years after a custody arrangement has been settled?
One marriage and family therapist says it does not. She points out that parenting plans rarely change. However, keeping a parenting plan the same does not take into consideration the changing needs of the child. After all, a 2-year-old has very different needs than a 13-year-old. In addition, a parenting plan that stays the same does not allow the child to say what they want.
Children who are not allowed to speak up may end up feeling powerless. Although some children will ignore their own needs and carry on, others who don’t have a say may end up demonstrating destructive behaviors as a way to show their parents that something isn’t right.
In order to give children a chance to say what they need and want, the marriage and family therapist suggests that parenting plans be reviewed every two years. She says that children should also be given a chance to speak privately about what they want.
What the child wants may not always be feasible or appropriate. However, assessing how children function at home and at school and determining if they have appropriate relationships with others their age is essential. If a child is having a difficult time, changes in the custody agreement may be necessary.
Source: The New York Times, “In Whose Best Interests?” Ruth Bettelheim, May 19, 2012