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Father in small home with paternal grandmother, has teenage boy, has $$ struggles

Your Question:
I have been divorced from my x for about 13 years, we have had 50/ 50 custody so there has been no need of child support, makes sense to me. While my now 15 year old son was having trouble at school with school work, we thought from switching from house to house( Mon, wed, and ever other Friday sat and Sunday with X and Tue, Thursday, and every other Friday Saturday and Sunday with me) that the x and I decided that he would do homework at her house before coming to our house on our days, no problem, I want what’s best for my wonderful son, then she thinks that another change would be in order just to see if it helps the boy, this would have our son come back to her house on school nights at 8:30 after he has eaten and bathed at our house. She stated very clearly that it was not about the money, I believed her, hey why not. I have been a very big part of my sons life, I was den leader for cub scouts for 3 years and Den leader of Boy scouts for 1 year as well as manager of his baseball team for 4 years, I love my son with all my heart, I think that I am making up for my childhood as my father was not around for me, what’s the harm in that, right? Now it has come down to her taking me to court to get child support, I have been injured whilst working construction and have a 30% disability, I went to college for retraining and have been unable to get work in the field of computer networking. I went back to construction to put food on the table, this is not very smart but I am desperate. I do not work for any one company as I do odd jobs for friends and scouring the neighborhood, my income is not very great, and I do not pay taxes as my ability to work is greatly effected by the type of work I am forced to do. I got a business license at the beginning after my disability ran out as well as my workers comp ran out. I cashed out of the workers comp thinking that I would find employment in the Computer field with Medical and such, big mistake!

The judge figured that Our son going back to her house at 8:30 on Tuesday and Thursday during the school year and 50/50 in the summer that I have him 40% of the time and figured my income at minimum wage and ordered me to pay $342 a month as well as half of his medical insurance at $35. I have always paid half of his medical insurance as well as half of any medical costs he ever incurred, it is just fair. I currently live in a 1 bedroom house, my mother had to come live with us due to a problem with her living arrangements, my Mom sleeps in the bedroom and my son and I share a futon bed in the front room, I ask him if sleeping in the same bed is uncomfortable to him and he says no as I would have no problem sleeping on the floor if it were a problem. My question is this: Can our son choose whom he would like to live with? I know our living arrangements are cramped but this is a house of love whereas his mother may live in a 3 bedroom house, she is prone to rage and has hit him in the past. My son has stated on many occasions that he is afraid of getting her rage, which is very visible that he already has picked up this anger problem of hers. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

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My Answer:

A fifteen year old boy needs privacy, particularly when he's living in a tiny home with his father and grandmother. So, you've got a strike against you for having inappropriate living conditions for a teenage boy.

A teenage boy also needs a home that provides nurture, discipline, and at least average parenting. Some parents use corporal punishment, which many other parents (including me and you, perhaps) feel that hitting children isn't effective. An occasional slap is not going to cause a custody change, however.

Further, many people have anger issues. If the mother isn't outside of the range of normalcy, it won't cause a custody change. She may lose her temper more than me or you, but the question is whether it's severe enough to be an unfit parent. You didn't provide enough details about that.

All of that said, the court may consider the teenager's feelings about where he wants to live. More importantly, the court will want to know WHY. If you feed him doughnuts and Mountain Dew for breakfast, buy him the latest video games, etc; the court won't view those as valid reasons to live with you. If the kid says that he's terrified of his mother, the judge will be concerned.

So... my biggest advice to you is to find a way to move into a bigger place, or find a way to move your mom out ASAP. Given your feelings of obligation to your mom, plus your tight finances... I know you're in a very tough spot.

All you can do in the meantime is try to manage everything as best you can, as you work towards something better. And continue to be as best a dad as you can, regardless of living arrangements.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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