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Q: My ex-husband and I have joint custody of our two daughters. Recently they've been asking if they can live with me on a permanent basis. I am a good mother. When we were separated I had the girls. I then moved to another city leaving the girls with their father, thus us having joint custody and him being the caregiver. What can I do and what age can they make their own decision to leave? Their ages are eleven going on twelve, and ten. Any other information would be great and I'd appreciate a comment. Thank you.
A: I'm hoping that you and your ex can put any differences aside and truly advocate for what's best regarding your girls at this developmental stage. Even if kids have healthy relationships with both divorced parents, it is quite natural for girls your daughters' ages to want to live with their mother. As long as they are not playing mind games, seeking revenge, craving attention, etc. with you and your ex, they are certainly old enough to have their parental living choices respected.
I suggest finding an experienced family therapist to guide and support you through this transition. The therapist can non-judgmentally allow all of you a separate and collective forum to discuss your needs and opinions. She can keep the focus on your daughters' needs and mental health and help you and your ex to focus on those needs as well. Good luck. Give me an update if you have time.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.