Your child is important to you, and they're important to your spouse as well. You can both agree that you both want to remain in your child's life. What you can't agree on is how often each of you should spend time with your child.
Your child is a young teen, and you know that their wishes might be heard in court. You're concerned about how your actions, as well as the other parent's actions, could taint your child's opinion of either of you and result in them choosing where to live against either of your wishes.
How can you make sure your child isn't manipulated when choosing custody arrangements?
The first thing to remember is that your child has been with both of you for their entire life. That means that they know what you're like and what their other parent is like. In most cases, young teens can be manipulated into making decisions, but more often than not, they're able to differentiate between when a parent is being honest and when a parent is trying to bargain with them or tempt them.
The court will hear what they have to say, but their wishes aren't the only wishes that matter. For yourself, you should continue to do the things you've always done with your child. This isn't a game where either parent should encourage the child to choose them over the other. You should be encouraging your child to make a decision based on their experiences and what they think will be the best situation for them. You and your spouse, even if estranged at this point, should sit down and talk about the arrangements you'd like with your child as well as listen to what they have to say.
If there is any concern about manipulation, let your attorney address this with the judge. Judges have seen it all, so they are often quick to notice changes in behavior and discrepancies in a child's or parent's stories.
To learn more about child custody and your legal options, browse our webpages on the topic.