Throughout the divorce process, parents will tend to take a view on what suits them and their children best. The custody agreement that they desire will generally reflect this. However, any legal settlement will also dictate where the child lives and with whom they get to spend their time.
So, do custody arrangements take into consideration the wishes of the child? If they do, how much weight is given to them?
Older children and custody
Older children are permitted to express their views. They are even allowed to do so in the courtroom. However, that alone does not impact the court’s final decision. The opinions and wishes of older children are just one piece of evidence that the court will consider along with everything else.
Younger children and custody
Children should be at least middle school age before being allowed to express their wishes before the court. At this stage in a child’s development, gender roles, etc. may start to have a greater influence. For example, a daughter may value time spent with their mother more, or a son with their father, or in any other combination. There is no one size fits all approach to whom children prefer to spend time with; every parent-child relationship is different. The merits of each case ought to be decided on an individual basis, with all evidence being examined.
As a parent, the court will tend to try and uphold your legal rights and keep your best interests in mind, as well as other family members. Children will not be able to make an independent decision over something that is so important.
Getting to know your legal rights and obligations can help to protect your interests as well as ensuring that the needs of children are satisfied.