When parents split, there is often a myriad of reasons for the decision. If they got along, then it would stand to reason that they would remain together.
One of the most stressful issues during divorce is child custody and parenting time. Under Florida law, legal and physical custody do not have to split evenly. It is not uncommon for parents to have joint legal custody, but the children reside with one or the other a majority of the time. At what age are a child’s wishes impactful in court? When a child chooses one parent over the other, a judge must sift through the evidence to find out why.
Age is not a factor
There is no minimum age standard in Florida when it comes to a child’s wishes. The court focuses on how smart the child is, what his or her maturity level is and whether the child understands the impact of the decision. A judge may also question a child’s motives if he or she seems too knowledgeable about the process.
A child does not have to testify
The court will not force a child to speak up if he or she does not want to. The courts typically do not like to hear from a child in custody cases unless it is necessary, and a child does not have to go to open court and testify. The judge may interview the child in chambers in the presence of a court reporter, or the child may go to a counselor who conducts the discussion and speaks in court.
A parent’s influence
Situations exist where a parent may attempt to goad a child into choosing to cut the other parent out. While the court does everything it can to ensure that it does not help this along, there are times when a judge may get it wrong. Judges do not always go along with a child’s wishes, especially if the other parent can prove that there is parental interference.
Dealing with child custody before and after divorce is a difficult process. Facing it with an attorney may prove better for you and your children.