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When do children get to decide who they live with?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2020 | Firm News |

Divorce is difficult for both parents and children. No one involved planned to change how the family would interact and function.

Children can have an especially difficult time. Even young children can feel like their opinion is not considered when it is time to decide whom they will live with and how often they get to see the other parent.

Here’s what the court will consider when it comes to your children’s preference regarding custody.

Concern for children

While often resilient, children can be fragile beings. Even when children do not express it outwardly, they want their parents to be happy with them and their choices.

The court recognizes that children can be easily manipulated, even when the parents do not intend to influence their opinion. Testifying in a divorce proceeding can also be very difficult for children since they will often feel like one parent is asking them to choose sides over the other.

When children are young, the court looks almost exclusively at the child’s best interests when deciding custody or conservatorship. Parents will need to show their ability to care for their children and on what grounds one should have conservatorship over the other.

Age matters

As children get older and more capable of expressing their thoughts and opinions, the court gives their opinion more weight. While a small child may want to live with one parent or another because of certain toys or more relaxed rules, an older child will be able to articulate that they have common interests with a specific or that one parent has a more stable living environment.

Once children reach the age of 12, the court begins to consider the child’s opinion, and as they age, that opinion receives more weight than the other factors. Ultimately, the court will look to the child’s best interest, even if that conflicts with the child’s preference.