18 answers

17 Yr. Old Son Moved in with His Dad

My ex is suing me for custody (& child support) of our 17 yr. old son. We have been divorced for over 7 yrs. The only reason he is doing this is because he doesn't want to pay child support any more. We had a strained relastionship at our house between me, my son and his step-dad. I allowed my son to stay at his dad's for a few months and now his dad is claiming that I "relinquished my rights".

I remarried over 6 yrs. ago and my husband is very consistent with discipline and makes our son treat us with respect, do chores, etc. Our son wants to live with his dad because there are NO rules, responsibilities, curfew......you see where I'm going with this??

My husbands says "let him go ahead and move in with his dad", "he'll figure out when his dad doesn't have the $$ to pay for all the stuff he wants, etc., he'll be back". I am really having a hard time with it because I feel like I have failed as a mother. I am so depressed and I want my son back at home with me. I have a court hearing in 2 months and I want to fight for my son to come back home, but I know he doesn't want to be there. He wants to be "on vacation" at his dad's house.

I don't know what to do.......! Please give me some advice. I am so sad!!!!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™


I appreciate all of the support, advice, suggestions, etc. You folks have really given me some things to think about that had not even crossed my mind. My son is a good kid, makes good grades, excels in school & sports. I know I am responsible for him turning out the way he has! His father never attends our sons school functions and very few sporting events. I don't miss a SINGLE one....never have....never will! I know that doesn't make me "mother of the year" by any means, but I will always be there to support him and encourage him to do well.

My son's 2 reasons for wanting to live with his father are 1) "dad is alone and has nobody to live with him" (which is his OWN fault because if he had gone to marriage counceling like I begged for years and quit drinking......we could have worked things out!) and 2) "because I can do what ever I want". I know my son will eventually figure out that I nor his step-dad are the bad guys. We just want what is best for him and give him the most stable household to live in. Hopefully he will figure that out soon !!!

Thanks again for all the advice and please keep it coming. I will post the results of my court hearing later on!

More Answers

I went through that with my 16 yr old daughter. I moved 6 hrs closer to her dad so she could have her daddy close during her teenage years. Every decision I ever made was for her benefit. I went to so much trouble trying to find the best school for her and when I did, I built my life around it. He, meanwhile, had lived his own life all along without so much as even calling her sometimes for 6 months at a time. He wouldn't even return her calls. But when we moved near him she started spending summers at his house. One summer, 2 days before school started, he called and told me she wasn't coming back. She was staying with him. He bought her a car and anything else she wanted. I guess he realized what a joy to have around she was, and his wife was foaming at the mouth to stop paying child support. I didn't feel like a failure, because I know I did everything I could. I felt abandoned. She and I were a team. We were family. It had always been me and her against the world. I thought we were so close. We had so much fun together. I thought I knew her. Then she broke my heart. I felt like I got dumped. It was so embarassing when I had to tell people she moved in with her dad. The automatic assumption when kids live with dad is that mom must've been on drugs or a terrible person or something. I missed out on all the Senior year fun. I wasn't there when she got ready for prom. So, here we are 2 years later and I am just now starting to get over it. I still am so hurt. The only advice I can give you is that I handled it poorly. I am an example of what not to do. I don't own my daughter and she has a right to make decisions for herself. I shouldn't have taken it personally. I let it cause distance between she and I emotionally, as well as physically. I made her feel guilty. I know that she didn't do it to hurt me and that she wasn't actually abandoning me. I'm supposed to be the grownup and I think I've been childish and selfish. We're rebuilding our relationship now, but I wish I had been more supportive at the time and maybe we wouldn't have to rebuild now.

5 moms found this helpful

Your son is acting like a teenager who has two homes and he gets to choose where he wants to be.All teems rebel, act crazy but somewhere deep inside him there is place that knows some rules are necessary and even needed. Hang in there make him come home on weekends as if he is visiting you. School will be starting soon so unless you live in the same district he will have to live with you per the custody arrangements right? I have been reading a great book about teen minds called "Yes Your Teen Is Crazy!" by Michael J Bradley. I find it to be interesting in reminds how really our brains work and get us to the point of adulthood.He is still your son and you are the mom he will always love you but he is a crazy teen right now and needs your love and understanding. Hang in there!

4 moms found this helpful

This doesn't really deal with the legal issues, but if it's possible, try to sit down with your son and actively listen what he wants. Don't be judgemental, and talk about what you want for him (what you'll hope he takes from living with you, what his future holds, etc.). Try keeping it very positive, and let him know that your door is open for him and you will love him no matter where he lives/what choices he makes, good or bad. If you feel the need to, give a brief explanation about how you are not relinquishing custody, and that him spending time with his bio father cannot be construed as that, but that you respect his choice to go live with his dad. Then, let him go. He's 17; he needs to have some autonamy (sp?) and by the time you fight this, he could well be 18 and be able to make the choice himself.

You are right to go on record as stating that having his son spend time with his bio father is not the same thing as relinquishing custody, and make sure that that is on file. But if your son really wants to leave, fighting with him and turning it into an ugly fight--no matter how much you're hurt, and you have my sympathy on that--regardless, he will change his mind and probably won't respect you for it.

4 moms found this helpful

Dear J.,
I know your feelings are hurt. My ex has taken me to court so many times over custody and support and my son and I are very close. The knife through my heart really came when I found out that last time, my son knew what his dad was up to and never said a word to me. BUT, he thought his dad was asking for something way different than the truth of the matter and HE was hurt when he found out what was really going on. Anyway.....

You have not failed as a mother.
Your son is 17. The court will let him go where he wants unless you have a solid legal reason to prevent it.
I would answer in your court papers that allowing your son to have time with his dad is NOT the same thing as "relinquishing your rights" and he shouldn't be twisting it into that. Mediators and courts know that many times kids want to be with the "fun" parent or the parent with the biggest TV. That doesn't mean it's the best place for them.
Unfortunately, in your situation, your son at 17 only has months before he turns 18 and/or graduates, in which case custody and child support is no longer a court issue.
I hate to say it, I'm a mom too, but I think your husband might be right on this one.
State clearly that you want him to come home, you think it's best, you never gave up your rights, but if he wants to be with his dad, you realize by the time you fight it and anything is decided, he will likely be of age anyway and he can just go with his dad. Your son isn't a baby, he can see the court papers and know you didn't just give him away. But, at his age, you are fighting a losing battle in my opinion.
I think your son will regret it one day, but for now, he doesn't see that. He's so close to turning 18 that unless your son changes his mind, he will end up with his dad.
He'll come back to you in the long run though....
He will.

Just let your son know that you love him and if this is what he wants, you hope he's really thought about it.

I wish you the best.
Don't beat yourself up.

Best wishes!

4 moms found this helpful

I see the problem. Child wants to live with the party parent, and with your ex suing for child support, he wants you to fund the party. I don't know what court will do with that. And there's only a year left before your son is 18 - at which point most child support stops anyway. I'm not sure the courts will grant sole custody to your ex after all this time, either. It's hard, but living with his Dad might wake your son up to some harsh realities. I'd get a family lawyer to make sure you don't end up throwing money out the window (Is there any collage money set aside? Perhaps you can pay into a collage account which can only be paid out to an educational institution). Once the money is out of the picture, I'm fairly sure your ex will also drop out of the picture.

3 moms found this helpful

Your son is almost 18 years old. Isn't child support end when he's 18? And can't he legally decide where he wants to live when he's 18 also? I know it is hard to see your son make choices that are not in his best interest but he's very nearly an adult. Within less than a year, if he wanted to move out of state or to another country, or join the army, that will be his right. Since you are at this juncture now in your life, I think that it may be best to treat him as if he is capable of making his own decision about whether to live with mom or dad, and know that if he does make a decision that he'll regret later, that is all part of his learning process in life.

I know it is hard but I think that, in this instance, it's probably a good time to allow your son to make some of his own decisions because he is nearly an adult.

3 moms found this helpful

I also have a great fear about this with my 10 year old daughter. My ex has already tried this 2 times and each time the court has decided she should be with me mostly full time during the school year and with him during the summer. I'm waiting for him to do it again when she's old enough (in the court's eyes) to decide where she wants to live. He is constantly trying to make it seem like things would better for here there. He is just as you described your ex - no rules, no responsibilities, anything goes. I'm not sure I have any advice, although I'm sure in a court's eyes 17 is plenty old enough to make this decision. I would just know in your heart you've done everything you can to be a good mother, don't let it be a reflection on you. Hopefully your husband will turn out to be right and your son will figure out that the grass isn't always greener.

2 moms found this helpful

I had the same situation about 10 years ago when my x and i divorced he wanted my youngest who then was 15 he had no rules and i did, well according to the lawyer my son was old enough to say where he wanted to live and i could fight as much as i like and spend money but in the end the judge would let my son decide. and let's just say my son went with my x got in alot of trouble and situations and trouble. years later he realized he made alot of mistakes in his life but he is now 26 in the army and doing very well. the meaning behind this is you have to let them go and live their life to an extent but always let them know you love them and are there for them if they need you , and believe me he will. but dont stop him other wise you are the bad guy and when he falls into trouble he will not have any where to go but down, this way he knows your door is always open and he is welcome to come home if he needs too.

2 moms found this helpful

My heart breaks for you just reading this. I watched it from the outside 3 times as a kid... My family went through this with all 3 of my siblings. Mom left & we all stayed with our dad, who later remarried a woman none of us liked. My older sis went with Mom shortly after (she was 15 at the time), then once my younger bros were of age (I'm #2), they went too. By the time the boys left, I was in college away from home already, so don't know the whole back story. I was the only one who stayed with my dad & stepmom bc I didn't want to leave my friends & didn't like the life at Mom's on visitation weekends. I know it broke Dad's heart that they all left, but they had their own lessons to learn- good or bad. As teens, they think they know everything. They like the freedom they see with the other parent even if there is no $$ or real time spent with them.
It is very sad, and I can't imagine going through that with my own kiddos. I think the best you can do is support him & let him know you will still be there for him. My dad told my sibs, "Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out cause once you move out, you're gone and I'm done." I think it was said more out of hurt than anything, but still. It drove a huge rift in all 3 relationships that my sis & the older of my 2 bros are just starting to mend after 16 & 10 yrs respectively. My youngest bro still has his same attitude toward my dad & stepmom.
My sis recently got to experience the other side of the situation when her 8yo decided she was going to live with her dad. My niece & sis have the same relationship my dad & sis did in that they are so much alike, they just fight constantly, and niece is the spoiled princess with her dad.
I know you don't want to hear it, but I don't think fighting for custody is the best idea honestly (I'm thinking from the kid's perspective having watched it so many times). You said he doesn't want to be there right now, so fighting for him & forcing him will only cause more issues in your house. He may decide in the next couple of months that his dad's house really isn't the best place for him and want to come back on his own (2 of my sibs figured that out, but Dad wouldn't let them back). You need to be open to the idea & really hear him out. It will be horribly hard for him to humble himself to ask to come back even if you have a good relationship. If it's strained already, the kid will just suffer through till he can move out of his dad's house (that would be my youngest bro).

2 moms found this helpful

Here's where Moms get their heart broken. Do not take it personally, although like the rest of us you will. She wants to "know" the other half of herself. This happens when one parent does not involve themselves on a regular basis with a child. That child constantly wonders about the parent they do not have. With teenagers, a change in scenery and "house rules" are a great incentive to move in with their mostly absentee parent. It is usually lax at their houses because they need to be the good guy to keep the kid in their life. He will come back around. I would tell the judge that your son only wants to live with his Father because of lax rules and that you would like to retain custody but will reliquish child support until such time as son moves back in or turns 18. I think that is a healthy compromise seeing as how the Father only wants to stop paying. He will find out that his piddly amount every month does not raise a child. Stay involved with son, have your weekends and go to his functions.

2 moms found this helpful

I'm so sorry. I feel for you. Like a few others, I have a young daughter (8) who her Dad alwalys gives her "presents" and "surprises" and does fun stuff every other weekend when he has her. I'm dreading this day as well. At 17, he is old enough to decide where he wants to live. I would also have him come home on the weekends for visits. Hang in there, in another year he will be an adult anyway and might try to venture out on his own at that time.

2 moms found this helpful

I fear the day I have to face this situation. I have a 6 year old daughter and her bio dad is the same way. He is always doing fun things with her when he has her every other weekend then she comes home to reality, rules and responsibility for her actions.
Just speaking from how I watched some of my friends do what your son is doing when we were teens, your husband is right. He will be back. Like they say, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I would just let him be for the next two months to see how he likes it. He might even want to be back before then. One day your son will respect you and your husband for the rules you set for him. Good luck! I feel for you!

1 mom found this helpful

Sorry to hear about your predicament. Your ex has no idea how difficult it is to live full time with a 17 year old. I don't know much about American law as I am Canadian but in this country some court orders say child support until 18 years of age only. I know you miss him but sometimes we have to let go in order for them to learn a very valuable lesson. Check with an attorney to see what you legal rights are. Maybe you should consider mediation.Good luck.


1 mom found this helpful

My heart goes out to you. It is a very difficult situation. My son was 14 when we divorced. His dad wanted to let him choose and asked him who he wanted to live with. Son kept saying he couldn't decide. Knowing it was unfair to ask him to make that choice and wanting him, I said he was living with me. ( He thanked me for that later). It was hard being sole parent to a teenager...as you know. I was tempted to let his dad have him and deal with "teenage boyhood" many times. I figured a few months of him, and dad would give him back. That may happen in your case. You do not have to give up your rights, but can let dad be custodial parent and have lots of "visitation". Once a child turns 18 or finishes high school there is no legal responsibility to pay child support in Texas. So dad would only be collecting or having legal rights for a year. Get a good lawyer (yes, it costs money) and decide what is best for your son and what you can concede and what is non-negotiable. Talking with your son may help too, but 17 year olds most of the time do not think about the future, only what is happening right now. Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

At 17 there isn't much you can do. Plus he only has one year left hopefully before college. I would say let him go and just make sure you keep urging him to stay in school and keep his grades up. Oh yeah, and don't get anyone pregnant. Too much freedom can mean disastrous things. Just pray. I'm sure you have a good son, but even good sometimes can lead to bad. Not trying to scare you, just stating the statistics.

1 mom found this helpful

I know exactly what you going through. One thing I know is dad is in for a rude awakening, because most teenagers at that age are a handful. I raised two without their dad because we divorced when they were young. He may think he wants his son, but a mother will take a lot from their children. The dad and stepmom if one is in the will not put up with 'teenage' behavior. Why after allo these years, now that the son is 17, does he want him? Try not to be depressed and beat yourself up. Your son is being the typical teenager and your husband will see it is not a picnic if cops are calling, or your son starts hanging out with unsavory characters and worse get involved with drugs. My grandmother always said brought sense is better. I saw what she was talking about. One can talk until they are blue in the face but experiences will being the lesson into stark reality. Trust in God and let him direct your paths.

Wow. I had this exact situation happen to me. Only difference...my son is 13 and his dad didn't take me to court because he didn't want to pay legal fees...he started but didn't finish. He tried to make my life hell for quite a while though...brainwashing my son against me...not having any rules at his home...all because he didn't want to pay child support anymore. Hang in there. Just keep being the good mother that you are. These situations can make you question so much. I thought about letting my son go...just so he could see...as your husband mentioned, but thought against it based on the damage they had already done during regular visitation. Don't give up. You're son will eventually see through all of his dad's antics.

i remember my friends around the age of fifteen had to make a choice on which parent they wanted to have main custody. is fifteen not the age they do this any more. is it even up to the parents or do the kids make the choice?

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