do children have a say in child custody?

Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With?

Whether your child is begging to live with you or telling you they only want to live with their other parent, you’re in a painful situation. As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child beg you not to take them to their other parent’s house, and it stings to hear your child say they don’t want to go with you. However, this situation is fairly common, so lots of parents wonder how much power their child actually has.

If you’re gearing up for a difficult custody battle, the team at Coumanis & York is here to support you. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 251-990-3083.

How the Courts Determine Custody

The child’s preference can affect a court’s custody ruling. However, the court doesn’t automatically listen to every child’s preference. For the judge to consider it in their ruling, the child must be considered mature enough to voice such a request. This doesn’t occur at a specific age. Instead, the judge can use their discretion in each case.

Even if the child is old enough to indicate their preference, that doesn’t mean that the judge will automatically honor their preference. It will be a factor, but not the only one they weigh. In some cases, they’ll try to find a balance.

For example, if the child prefers to live with Parent A because they have lived with them their whole life and they don’t want to change, the court might grant primary custody to Parent A but still give every other weekend to Parent B. Consider another scenario where the child wants to live with Parent A because Parent B has strict rules and Parent A has promised annual trips to Disney World. In this case, the judge may recognize that the stability of Parent B is a better environment for the child.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is another reason that the court doesn’t automatically side with a child’s stated preference. Alienation is always a possibility in child custody cases, and judges watch for it when talking to children. If a child has been alienated from one parent, honoring the child’s stated preference only causes further harm to what could be a healthy relationship.

When talking to a child about whom they want to live with, the judge will look for language and signs that they have been coached by one parent on what to say. If this happens, the alienating parent’s efforts can backfire—the judge may give more custody to the other parent in order to protect the child from further alienation.

Explore Your Options with Coumanis & York

No matter which side you fall on in your custody battle, you need a dependable legal team on your side. We’re here to help. Set up a time to talk now by calling our team at 251-990-3083 or getting in touch online.

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