Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?

February 17, 2021

Divorce is just as hard on the children as it is on the parents, especially if there’s a custody battle involved. Child custody decisions in Tavares, FL can be difficult when your child is expressing a preference to live with their other parent, despite your personal desires or concerns.

Can kids really pick which parent to live with? Not exactly, although their wishes may have an impact on the outcome of your case. If you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, the judge will decide for you. Here’s how custody is determined.

Custody overview

Before you can understand how your child’s preferences fit in, you need to know how custody is determined. The parents can either agree on a parenting plan, or a judge will need to decide the matter. There are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody is the time your child spends with you. You might get sole physical custody, 50/50, every other weekend or another arrangement that makes sense for your individual case. A judge will take your schedule and location into account, as well as the child’s educational and social networks.

Legal custody is decision-making power—for example, clothing, discipline, education, medical care and other major decisions parents make on behalf of their children. You can have visitation and no legal custody, full physical and legal custody and any variation in between. A judge will take many factors into account, such as the parents’ relationship, education, employment, prior convictions, relationship with the child and more.

“In the best interests of the child”

When it comes to making custody decisions, “in the best interests of the child” is the magic phrase. The judge will do their best to make a decision based on the parents’ moral fitness, health, financial situation, geographical location and more. If the child expresses a preference, that can be taken into consideration as well.

When a child does express a preference, the judge doesn’t automatically assign custody to that parent. First, they’ll consider the child’s age, maturity level, understanding of the situation and intelligence. They need to know that the child understands the decision they’re making as well as any possible ramifications involved.

If there are multiple children involved, that can complicate matters further. Even if the older children express one preference, that doesn’t mean their younger siblings understand the consequences of their decision. If it turns out that each child would be better off with a different parent, they may end up living in separate homes—as long as it’s in the best interests of each child.

Note that there’s no bright line on age, either. In some cases, a 10-year-old might be too immature to understand their decision, while an eight-year-old may be deemed competent enough to take their preferences into account. It will all depend on the circumstances of your individual case.

When you need the answers to child custody and family law FAQs or want to hire your own custody lawyer in Tavares, FL, call K.J. Law P.A.

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