Do Children Have A Choice In Custody Disputes?
When you are going through a divorce that involves children or separating from the person you share a child with, you can create a parenting plan with the other parent. To do this, you and your ex-partner must agree about the terms of the plan including when you will each spend time with the child and who the child will spend weekends, vacations, and holidays with. If you cannot reach an agreement on the parenting plan, you will have to go to court and allow a judge to make the final decision on all parenting matters.
Parents often wonder if their child will have a say in which parent they would prefer to live with post-divorce. As with most legal issues, the answer is that it depends. Below, our Campbell child custody lawyer explains further.
When Children are 14 Years Old or Older
In most cases, the courts will hear the preferences of the children if they are 14 years old or older. It is generally presumed that it is at this age that a child is of a reasonable enough age to form a preference based on practical reasons. Still, if a child who is 14 years old or older does not have a reasonable basis for wanting to live with one parent over another, the court does not have to comply with the child’s wishes.
For example, a child may want to live with their mother, who will have more relaxed rules surrounding bedtime, homework, and the child’s routine. In this case, a judge would likely decide this is not a legitimate reason for the preference and is not in the child’s best interests, regardless of what the child says. The courts also do not have to hear the child’s preferences, if they believe it is against the child’s best interests.
Maturity is Taken Into Consideration
It is not only a child’s age that is taken into consideration when determining if a child’s wishes will be heard by the court. The child’s maturity level is, too. If the court believes a child is mature enough to state their preference, they can listen to what the child has to say, even if the child is not yet 14 years old.
For example, a 12-year-old child may realize that their parent has a substance abuse problem. If they raise the issue with a judge, the court may determine that the reason for wanting to live with one parent over another is reasonable and mature. The judge may then determine that upholding the child’s wishes is in their best interest.
Call Our Child Custody Lawyers in Campbell for a Consultation
If you have a child custody issue, you know how much is at stake. At Hepner & Pagan, LLP, our Campbell child custody lawyers have the necessary experience to help you resolve it and will give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Call us now at 408-429-8336 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.