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Cruising and Sailing with Children All things sailing and kids related, from safety to life aboard.


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Old 08-29-2011
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HELP! Move to Live Aboard Sparks Custody Battle

Hi all,

I found this forum while searching for anecdotes about kids living on boats to help me make a case for retaining a 50-50 custody arrangement with my son. I realize that this forum is geared more toward cruising but I'm desperate!

Briefly, after 2 years separated/divorced, and having a court-sanctioned custody arrangement that is 50-50, my ex-wife is using my recent move to a live aboard lifestyle as "justification" of nearly eliminating my time with our 13 year old son. The boat is a 34 foot Silverton Convertable (300 sq ft). My son has the forward v-berth to himself. I am in the process of altering the layout of the boat to better suit it for living aboard. I've gutted and completely replaced the head. I am moving the galley to where the dinette was. I've removed the lower pilot station. Between the galley shift and the ex- lower station, there will be considerably more "hanging out" room in the saloon.

I don't take the boat out, it's only a residence. We're tied up at a very nice, small marina in Salem, Mass. with many historical and cultural ammenities readily at hand. The Friendship of Salem, a square-rigged replica of a China trade ship, is docked directly in front of us a couple hundred feet away. I've had to submit a "wintering" plan (I did ten pages!) to demonstrate my ability to keep my son safe and warm. There are somewhere on the order of ten other full-timers at this marina in the winter (half go out to the moorings for summer). I chose a power boat over a sail boat, and this pricey marina over many far more affordable ones to provide my son with the most optimal conditions I could manage within the context of living on a boat. He will go to his regular school. The only difference between this year and last is living on a boat instead of a not-so-fantastic apartment.

Can I please implore this forum to help me with their first-hand experiences? I'd be especially grateful to hear from kids (currently or now grown up) who have experienced this lifestyle and could share some insights. Also, anyone who has experienced life aboard in wintery climes. And if anyone would be willing to share their stories in the form of a "sworn affidavit" please let me know. But I'd be grateful for any postings or useful insights to help me retain the rich relationship I have with my son and to give him the opportunity to try out this unconventional way of life. I should add that my expressed attitude is to give him this opportunity but that I'll always maintain flexibility based on his needs and desires. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to continue. So far, he seems to like it well enough, though it is a difficult transition for him. His mom running to court to force him out hasn't helped either.

Thank You!
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Old 08-29-2011
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You didn't say what your attorney's opinion was. You do have one.
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You didn't say what your attorney's opinion was. You do have one.
My attorney doesn't see what the big deal is. She acknowledges it's not a common life choice but also understands it's a boat in a marina, not the space station. The key is to present enough information to the court to allow them to rule on an issue that they have no personal experience with. Anecdotes relating to kids on boats would go a long way in doing that.
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Old 08-29-2011
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you might want to consider having a lawyer for your kid instead of you.
This way the kid gets his say with a powerful voice, would carry more weight then your lawyer claiming this for your son on your behalf.
that's what I did and ended up with full custody.
And if your state allows live aboards as a full time residency, then it is no different then a high rise apartment.
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Thanks KnottyGurl. I think you're right on both counts. I'll try to get representation for my son.
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Seems a no brainer if it is clean and safe. There are plenty of kids living in dilapidated trailer parks with their biological parent. Good luck.
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Old 08-30-2011
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Having suffered through the whole "kids & divorce" thing for many years, I have a few thoughts which may or may not help you.........

First, in hindsight, I think it would have been a better idea to sit down with your son and the ex and say, "So, I'm thinking of living on a boat, what do you both think about it?" Like it or not, you are in a partnership with your ex until your son reaches majority and her thoughts and opinions should be solicited and respected.

Second, do NOT be surprised if at the end, you find that your son has been going home and complaining to Mom that he really doesn't like being on the boat. He may not want to tell you directly as he doesn't want to disappoint Dad, but I would lay money that that's at least a part of the problem. Maybe a good talk with him is in order, and make sure you let him know that it's OK if he doesn't like it and that he should just tell you how he feels.

Third, if he's really all for it, most states allow a 13 year old to choose which parent he wants to be with. He should at least have an opportunity to speak with the judge and assure him that living on the boat while he's with you is just fine with him.

No matter what happens, it's a messy deal and I wish you good luck,

Mike
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Originally Posted by MikeinLA View Post
Having suffered through the whole "kids & divorce" thing for many years, I have a few thoughts which may or may not help you.........

First, in hindsight, I think it would have been a better idea to sit down with your son and the ex and say, "So, I'm thinking of living on a boat, what do you both think about it?" Like it or not, you are in a partnership with your ex until your son reaches majority and her thoughts and opinions should be solicited and respected.

Second, do NOT be surprised if at the end, you find that your son has been going home and complaining to Mom that he really doesn't like being on the boat. He may not want to tell you directly as he doesn't want to disappoint Dad, but I would lay money that that's at least a part of the problem. Maybe a good talk with him is in order, and make sure you let him know that it's OK if he doesn't like it and that he should just tell you how he feels.

Third, if he's really all for it, most states allow a 13 year old to choose which parent he wants to be with. He should at least have an opportunity to speak with the judge and assure him that living on the boat while he's with you is just fine with him.

No matter what happens, it's a messy deal and I wish you good luck,

Mike
Mike, your response shows a lot of insight due to (unfortunately) experience and (fortunately) keen sensitivity to how kids think.

Time will tell.

Thanks for your good advice and your concern.
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Old 09-01-2011
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Another suggestion

Dear Bonmot,
kids like boats usually (moving or not) - we all know that. You say he likes the idea, and you do as well. Maybe you could add a supporting statement of a psychologist. This should impress the court, I think.
Best wishes
chris
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Old 09-01-2011
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Well, if you're never leaving the dock then I guess you can't impress the judge with the way that navigation puts mathematics to practical use. Trig and even spherical trig make sense when you're navigating, geometry becomes practical, and math skills (will we make port before the storm?) become a matter of "gee, I ought to know that".

OTOH mother's do worry about kids falling in the water and drowning, simply having water around with constant adult supervision seems to be a greater hazard than all the equally real dangers we ignore in homes.

Does her home have natural gas or propane? Couple of those blow up every year, but we all ignore it. Got an attic? Attracts bats, which carry rabies. Same thing for any critters under the porch. Or poison ivy invading corners of the garden.
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