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How much input should your kids have in your parenting plan?

Working out a custody agreement and parenting plan can be one of the most difficult and conflict-ridden parts of a divorce. Both parents sincerely believe that they have their children's best interests at heart. However, they may have very different views about what those are.

Should children's wishes be considered in this process? That's a tricky question. They should never be placed in a position of choosing which parent they want to live with or how they want to divide their time. However, if your kids are old enough and/or mature enough, it's wise to take their views into consideration.

Open dialogue with your kids is essential throughout the divorce process. You'll want to know how they're feeling and should work to assuage their fears. Doing so will likely give you a good idea (or they may tell you outright) what they want their living situation to be. It's important to listen to their feelings and not react emotionally — even if they tell you they'd rather live with their other parent.

It's crucial that while you're listening to them, you not tell them that you and your co-parent will make your decision based on their wishes. That's not a responsibility that any child should have. They need to know that their parents are still in charge and can work together to decide what's best for them.

Don't negotiate the parenting plan in front of them. Likewise, if you're having disagreements about it, don't let your kids know. Just like any other conflicts the two of you are having, those should be kept away from your children.

If you and your co-parent aren't able to reach an agreement on your own, with the help of your attorneys, the matter will have to be decided by a judge. In Florida, a judge may ask the kids for their input, if they're old enough, and consider their wishes.

However, it's always best when parents can work out an agreement themselves. That will require compromise from both of you. However, you're likely not going to get exactly what you want if you take the matter to a judge.

Your Florida family law attorney can tell you what factors the judge will consider and whether you'll fare better settling the matter outside of court or in it. Remember, the judge will consider what's best for the kids — as, of course, should the parents.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "When Should Kids Have a Say in Parenting Agreements?," accessed May 02, 2018

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