‘Parent shopping’: Teens of divorced parents looking to switch households ahead of possible second lockdown

TORONTO — A Canadian law firm says it has seen an increase in teenagers of divorced parents looking to switch households ahead of a possible second lockdown.

Alyssa Bach, an associate lawyer at Shulman & Partners LLP, told CTV News Channel the law firm has seen an “increase in the volume of calls” from parents asking what to do when they have a child who is looking to change their residential arrangements.

“Asking about moving to the other parents home and finding out if that request can be accommodated, and what are the other implications and so that’s really what we’re dealing with right now,” Bach explained in an interview on Sunday.

Depending on how a family functioned during the first lockdown, Bach said some teenagers may be looking to switch their primary residence to the more lenient parent’s home ahead of a second wave.

“You have teenagers where they’re essentially parent shopping. They’re looking at which parent has the more flexible household, not necessarily the less safe household, but where they’re going to have that little bit of extra freedom,” Bach said.

“You’ve also got just the tensions that are building up in homes and sometimes needing the change of scenery.”

Bach said having work and school take place in the same environment may be creating stress within a family, adding to the teen’s desire to move homes.

In most situations, Bach said the teen would likely be permitted to switch households.

“What parents are dealing with is, do we accommodate this request, which in most situations, if it’s shown to be in the child’s best interest, then yes,” she said.

Before making the switch official, Bach said parents first have to consider the implications of such a transition, including custody and each party’s finances.

Bach said one of the biggest issues when divorced parents allow a child to switch households is working out child support.

When dealing with children under the age of 18, Bach explained that there’s normally child support payments flowing from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent each month. She said a change in the child’s residence may mean that there also needs to be a switch in who receives those payments.

“When you have parents that have adjusted their financial circumstances to having those funds come in each month, and now all of a sudden, not only are those funds not coming in, but if they’re now the person that’s paying, it can mean a whole rearranging of your finances,” Bach said.

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic may have put a strain on finances, making this transition unaffordable for some parents.

However, Bach said parents need to work out the financials to do whatever is best for the child.

“Especially when you’re dealing with teenagers, do what you can to make them happy. Make them the most productive given all of the extra tensions,” Bach said.

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