How to discuss custody with your child

Breaking the news of your divorce to your child is difficult. But, if you’re gearing up for divorce proceedings, you know that was just the start of difficult conversations.

Next, you’ll need to address the actual implications the divorce is going to have on them. Here are a few things you should make sure to cover.

Living situation

Before deciding on a child custody arrangement, it’s a good idea to ask a child psychologist about what kind of schedule may work best considering your child’s age. Then, work with your ex-spouse to pick out a few options.

Instead of asking your child broadly about what sort of living arrangement they prefer, give him or her the options you are considering. If you will be living in an apartment or with a relative temporarily, give your child this expectation. Also, explain that the custody schedule will likely change as they grow older.


If changing schools is a possibility for your child, make it sounds fun — even if it means they’ll be spending more time with the other parent. Changing schools is a huge change that will likely scare your child. Whether the school is near you or not, offer your child all your support and help as he or she considers the potential for this transition.

Holidays and Birthdays

Try to put a positive twist on explaining how holidays and birthdays will be spent. You can do this by telling your child that he or she gets to have treats and open presents twice instead of only once going forward.

Child’s say

If your child is twelve years or older, the courts will consider the custody decision that child favors. When you tell your child about this, tell him or her that they may keep their preference to themselves or can choose not to pick a preference at all.

Also, tell him or her that they will not hurt either parents’ feelings by having a preference. Don’t pressure your child to pick sides.

Get help choosing a custody arrangement

By using the help of a professional, you, your ex-spouse and your child can feel confident in the child custody arrangement that’s chosen. A lawyer can help you make negotiations through mediation sessions or in divorce court.



FindLaw Network