Many states have rules that outline at which age a court must consider a child’s preference regarding child custody arrangements. In Florida, however, there is no particular age guideline, and judges have sole discretion over whether the child has the ability to make a reasoned, informed choice.
In these cases, the judge will consider whether the child truly understands the choice he or she is making and if the child has had enough experience living and interacting with each parent for that decision to have merit. Some other factors a court may consider include:
- Is the child actually making an intelligent and sensible decision, or is he or she simply making the choice as a form of rebellion against their custodial parent?
- Is either parent placing any sort of unfair influence on the child to sway their opinion?
- What other factors could potentially be influencing the child’s choice?
Judges will make decisions independently for each child. A child who is too young to be able to form an intelligent opinion will not necessarily go to the same parent as his or her older siblings. A situation could arise, for example, in which an older teen prefers to live with the father, while the judge determines it would be in the younger child’s best interest to live with the mother.
Additionally, judges are under no requirement to ultimately side with the child’s wishes. There are other factors they must look at, including each parent’s demonstrated parental ability, the income level of each parent, the amount of disruption in the lives of the child that would be caused by a change in custody and whether there is a history of abuse or neglect, as well as other numerous factors.
Child custody can be a delicate and important issue for divorcing spouses. For the guidance and advice you need, speak with a dedicated family law attorney in Jacksonville.
Attorney Andrea Jevic contributed to this post.