[S]ince your divorce, expenses are tight, worse than expected. Maybe you lost your job. Perhaps one of your children got sick. Or maybe the stress of raising a child alone has proven an overwhelming task. Whatever the situation, you now find yourself unable to handle raising a child on your own.
So you take a safety route and ask to move in with your parents. While this will solve a host of problems, it can also create more. So before you take that step, make sure you consider the impact this might have on your custody case. When moving forward pre-think ground rules so everyone understands boundaries and rules.
How Will This Affect My Custody Case?
If you’re past your final orders, or the other parent isn’t involved, perhaps it doesn’t. However, if you are seeking custody, trying to make a custody change, or the non-custodial parent wants custody, moving in with your parents is probably NOT a good idea. Living with your folks or moving communicates instability to the courts, re-read Moving? Best Interest of the Child? Probably Not.
However, sometimes moving in with parents is unavoidable. Here are four rules to consider when moving in with parents.
Rule #1: You Are the Primary Disciplinarian
It’s great that your parents are willing to help out, but your children need to know that you, as the parent, are the primary disciplinarian. This means that you have to be intentional about creating rules the entire family can abide by, and which your parents can support. Consider posting these rules in a prominent location, such as your refrigerator, so that all family members clearly understand expectations and consequences if the rules are not followed.
Rule #2: Give Everyone Some Space
Kids need personal space. Even a small reading corner can serve as a mini-sanctuary for your child. If possible, try to establish separate living spaces among your children. While same-sex siblings may need to share a room for a time, it’s not ideal for all of you to bunk in together for an extended period. Likewise, make sure that your parents have adequate space and privacy, and teach your children to be respectful of them at all times — a habit that begins with your own example.
Rule #3: Return the Favor
If your parents are helping you out financially or making themselves available to watch your children, return the favor by going out of your way to be helpful around the house. This may mean taking turns cooking meals, or getting the kids involved by doing the dishes, vacuuming, or just picking up around the house. Even if your parents don’t ask for assistance, these small acts of kindness and consideration won’t go unnoticed, and they also serve as good life-skills training for your children.
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Rule #4: Communicate Clearly
Finally, when you’re living with your parents, make sure that you sit down occasionally and share with one another how you think the arrangement is working out. If you find that you need them to babysit more than you had anticipated, this type of informal, adults-only family meeting would be an opportune time to discuss the matter. It also gives your parents a chance to share with you how things are working from their perspective, so that each of you can make the necessary adjustments to create a living situation that is ideal for everyone.
What other rules would you add?
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