Because they are sharing custody, they most likely have a legal agreement that was made in court and sanctioned by a judge. Therefore, this issue is something that will likely need to be dealt with in a court setting.
In custody proceedings, particularly in those that are contentious, children are often represented by individuals known as a guardian ad litem. These individuals may be social workers or other mental health professionals who are appointed by the court to represent children who are not of legal age and legally not considered able to make decisions for themselves. In California, you need to be 18 in order to make legal decisions for yourself (and that is likely true in most other states). The job of the guardian ad litem is to represent the interests of the child during legal proceedings. Their goal is to ensure the child’s best interest.
You might want to ask your aunt to assist you in requesting a guardian ad litem from the court or do this yourself, if you know how. You might be able to contact the judge or one of your parents’ attorneys in order to make the request.
Your request would likely prompt a court hearing to assess your living situation. This would serve as a good opportunity for you to make your case for living with your father. It may also assist you in getting extra support both psychologically and financially. You mentioned that your mother lives in a tiny apartment. The guardian ad litem may be able to advocate for additional resources to better accommodate your living situation.
Another request to consider is family therapy. Specifically, this could assist you, your father, and your stepmother in resolving some of the issues you have described. Family therapy is often useful in situations involving stepfamilies. It’s not uncommon for there to be strains on relationships with blended families. Family therapy could be the ideal solution to this problem.
If you have the option of therapy, request a therapist that specifically has training in stepfamily dynamics. A skilled therapist can help to resolve some of these issues and make living together much easier.
Another consideration is the possibility that it may be in your best interest to continue living with your aunt. You mentioned that you would prefer living with your father, but it may not be the ideal situation for you especially if your stepmother doesn’t want you living there. Ideally, you want to be living where you are welcome. You didn’t mention much about your aunt and why you no longer want to live with her. Maybe it’s just your preference, but you may want to consider her as an option.
In the meantime, you’re going to be turning 18 very soon and graduating high school. This marks a new chapter in your life. If possible, it may be best to get a job and start saving your money, so you can eventually live more independently. Counseling and related services could assist you in transitioning into a more independent living situation. Utilize the services that may be available to you through the court. The more assistance you have, the easier it will be to live independent of your family. Clearly, they are struggling with their own issues and thus learning to survive on your own will be important.
I hope this answer provides you some insight into how to move forward with your issue. Don’t hesitate to write again if you have additional questions or wish to provide additional information. The information I have about your personal life and situation helps me to help you. The more the better. Good luck with your efforts. Thanks for writing.
Dr. Kristina Randle