Although many states have set ages at which courts are required to consider a child’s preferences in establishing custody arrangements, there is no such age in Florida. Here, judges have sole discretion in determining whether kids are developed and intelligent enough to be able to have some input on these choices, whether they understand the full ramifications of the decision and whether they have had enough interaction and experience with each parent to make a fair, meaningful decision.
Courts also must consider whether the child in a particular case is actually making an intelligent decision or whether he or she is simply rebelling against the parent who currently has custody. In some cases, parents could be attempting to exert an unfair influence over the child’s opinions. Judges in Florida are particularly sensitive to these matters and are always on the lookout for children who appear to have been “coached” by one parent to make a custody decision one way or another.
Best Interests of Kids are Paramount
Of course, judges don’t have to take children’s preferences into account at all, even if they have been determined to be intelligent enough to do so. The primary goal of the judge is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child moving forward. The child’s preference is only one small part of that.
For more information and guidance on developing a sound child custody arrangement, consult the dedicated Jacksonville family law attorneys at Combs Greene, PA.
Andrea Jevic also contributed to this blog post.