Many times after a divorce or separation, children may express a desire to live with their non-custodial parent. Whether you are the custodial parent, or the non-custodial parent of your children, you need to be aware of the prevailing child custody laws in your particular state.
Why Does Your Child Want to Leave?
One of the most common reasons children will express a strong desire to live with the non-custodial parent is because they feel they are being kept from their time with the parent by their custodial parent. If the child wants to spend more time with his or her non-custodial parent, and is being kept from doing so, this can cause strong emotional conflict, and cause him to consider running away as a means of spending more time with his parent. The courts tend to favor mothers as the custodial parent in a divorce, and while the father may want to spend more time with his children, he may see the legal bills as a deterrent. No matter how you feel about your ex, if your children are expressing a desire to see more of their other parent, it is probably wise to let them do so to avoid them feeling as if you are attempting to keep them away from their parent. Try to put your personal feelings aside, and do what is best for your children.
Your Child's Wishes
In many states, when a child is 12 years old or older, the court will respect the wishes of the child, provided he is strong in his desire to live with the non-custodial parent, and it is clear to the court that the decision has been well-thought out. In some cases, when a child who is 12 or older expresses a desire to live with the non-custodial parent, the custodial parent, police, and child services will try intimidation tactics to try and change his mind. The courts will want to know what is in the best interest of the child, regardless of the child's wishes, and will likely put little faith in what the parents want.
When children are between 9 and 12, the courts will be very resistant to a change of residency, and must be shown that the child is either suffering or at risk with the parent they currently reside with. It will take a much stronger case for the courts to consider letting the child change residency at these ages than at 12 and up. If a child is very vocal about his wishes to move to the other parent's home, the courts will consider the request. Children under 9 will experience real problems when trying to move from the custodial parent's home. It will take some pretty severe, not to mention exceptionally well-document instances of child neglect or endangerment for this to happen.
If Your Child Runs Away
If your child runs away from his custodial parent and comes to you, the non-custodial parent, be aware that the police will likely be called to apprehend the child, and the child will end up being sent back. If the child runs away again and again, the courts will possibly take a second look at your custody agreement, and try to figure out why the child wants to live with you. You need to reassure your child that you support them, while letting them know they cannot run back and forth between parents. If the custodial parent's house has some issues that are causing your child to run away, make sure you teach your child how to reach you in an emergency, or whenever they feel intimidated or afraid. Your child should be fully informed on what he or she can do in the event of what they perceive as an emergency.
If your child is either running away from you or to you, you should get good legal representation. An experienced attorney will know the specific laws in your state regarding the rights of non-custodial parents, and will be able to make sure that whatever you do is within the bounds of the law.