Often I am asked by clients “How do I get my teenager to comply with parenting time?” As the parent of 4 boys who range in age from 13 to 21, I know how difficult it can be to pry a teenager away from his friends. Many parents in a divorce situation take a teenager rebuff personally. I’m here to tell you, it’s not personal. Just like your life has changed drastically due to the divorce so has the life of your teenager. Going out with friends helps them feel normal and in control of some aspect of their lives.
When a New Jersey judge is forced to determine parenting time he or she is supposed to take into account the child’s preferences regarding parenting time. According to N.J.S.A. 9:2-4, “when [the child is] of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision” the judge is supposed to take into account the child’s opinions and preferences when deciding on custody and parenting time. Now I know many of us feel our teenagers don’t have a brain in their heads but believe it or not, they do. The Court recognizes this and may take your teenager’s preferences into account when making parenting time decisions. So ask yourself this question, “If the Court values my child’s opinion enough to consider it, then maybe I need to take into account my child’s opinion, also.”
I’m not saying your child does not have to have parenting time with you but maybe the next time your teenager says, “I had plans to go to the mall with Mary. Do I have to come to your house?” maybe think about offering a compromise. Something along the lines of, “Well, I would really like to see you today. How about you go to the mall until 4 and then come to my house for dinner?” By compromising with your teenager you both get what you want, peacefully. In the end, you as the parent may not get as much time as you’re entitled to but it will be quality time because your teenager was not forced to be there.
Many parents feel the other parent has “brainwashed” their teenager against them. Often, this is not the case. Their friends just rank higher in the pecking order than you do. Try to remember, even if your family was still intact, chances are your son or daughter would still rather go out with friends as opposed to spending time with Mom and Dad. Be patient. Eventually, teenagers turn into adults and on their own, will want to spend time with you.
If you are contemplating divorce and need more guidance regarding the law, contact Lyons & Associates. Our divorce lawyers in New Jersey represent men and women throughout the state who have unresolved family law matters, including custody and parenting time. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us online or call our offices at 908-575-9777.
Written by: ChrisAnn Wright, Esq.