Child Custody Agreements and Business Travel: Recipe for Trouble?

If you have a shared parenting agreement and are on relatively good terms, you may never have considered whether your kids are being properly supervised while in your ex’s care. If you have a fluid arrangement, where your kids are welcome to spend time at either home — and your kids are teens — you may need to update your child custody agreement.

A recent post in the Wall Street Journal blog “The Juggle” took a look at what happens when one parent leaves town on business. We’ve all heard about house parties when parents are out of town. Unfortunately, with the advent of Facebook and other social media, today’s parties can quickly grow out of your kids’ control and into a destructive “rager.”

Recent examples of dangerous and destructive house parties have cropped up around the country. In one case, a parents-away house party promoted on Facebook attracted more than 100 teens and did at least $45,000 worth of damage.

“They urinated in every single drawer in the house. Every single drawer,” the home’s owner, Jill Abbett of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, said in an interview. Furniture and antiques had been broken and burned, family photos were destroyed, doors had been kicked in, holes were punched in the walls, carpets were soaked in urine and blood, and a number of valuables were stolen.

After the party, the teens created a fan page to brag about the destruction, calling themselves “The Homewrecker Crew.”

Joint Child Custody Arrangements Work on Trust — And Limits

Teens do best when parents agree on rules and supervision, says clinical psychologist JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, an expert on children and divorce and author of the forthcoming book “Putting Children First.”

“[I]t is very risky for teens to [be] unsupervised for long periods,” Pedro-Carroll told The Juggle. Consistent structure and clear rules are key. She recommends parents who are unsure how much agreement they have in this area should renegotiate their parenting agreements. Anytime one parent will be out of town, the child custody and visitation agreement should place on that parent the responsibility to make sure a responsible adult will supervise the kids.

It is essential for divorced parents to back each other up. Neither parent can play “the cool one,” let kids play one parent off the other, or back down in the face of adolescent opposition. “The kids accuse me of lacking trust in them,” one mother wrote to The Juggle, “but I am concerned that they or their peers might use the house for parties.”

“Deep down, too much freedom results in a concern that their parents really don’t care about them. Teens need and want limits,” emphasizes Pedro-Carroll.

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