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Who makes the decisions when co-parents disagree?

Even parents who remain together can have differences of opinion on how to rear and discipline their children. For divorced moms and dads struggling to co-parent amicably, these difficulties can first surface when the kids hit adolescence.

These are the years when kids are most likely to test parental limits. They're stretching themselves and trying to find their ways in new social settings and at school. They want to try new experiences with their friends.

This can be problematic if one parent is stricter and more controlling than the other. Kids sense when the united front is crumbling and can use every fissure as a wedge to get what they want.

Parents with different ideas about teenage freedom and consequences need to communicate their thoughts and ideas clearly with one another. Some issues simply aren't worth fighting over, e.g., there is little difference between a curfew of 10:30 p.m. and one at midnight. Agree to split the difference and settle on 11:15 p.m.

But when an adolescent's safety may truly be at risk, what should parents do when their child-rearing decisions are in opposition? No parent wants to put their child at risk unnecessarily, but risk can be subjective.

For instance, one parent may not want their son to play varsity football because they worry about the possibility of permanent injuries or even death. The other parent longs to see their son score the winning touchdown in a game and maybe even get a coveted college scholarship.

There is no universal answer to such dilemmas. With divorced parents, much depends on the terms of the custody order and which parent makes these decisions. With joint custody, both parents are involved in the decision-making process.

If you truly believe that your co-parent is reckless in their parenting decisions, you may want to revisit the matter in the Tennessee family courts by seeking a custody modification.

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