After a Divorce Can a Child Choose With Whom They Want to Live?
In Florida all child custody agreements, known as time sharing, are based on what is in the best interest of the child. When a judge presiding over a divorce case must decide who is to be the primary caregiver of the children, meaning the parent with whom the children spend a majority of their time, they are to evaluate a number of aspects of both the mother and father’s situations to determine which would be the best environment for the child. However, what if the child has an idea as to where they want to live?
In some cases, in which the child has a preference as to where they want to live, the parents will work together to come to an agreement that will take into account the child’s preference. In cases in which the parents cannot agree the final decision is made by the court. Judges have a lot of discretion in these rulings because the standard that must be applied is simply the best interest of the child. Although Florida statute does provide a number of factors that are to be evaluated, the judge is the only one that evaluates the information and bases his decision on what he believes would be best.
The judge is allowed to consider the child’s wishes as to where they want to live; however, the amount of weight those wishes are given depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the judge is going to take into account the child’s age and maturity level prior to asking for their preference. There is no specific age as to when judges begin to ask for the child’s preference. The general rule is that if a child is old enough and mature enough to voice their opinion to a judge while giving specific reasons for the preference, then it is appropriate to take that child’s preference into account.
When a judge does decide to take into account the child’s preference in deciding the issue of child custody the judge will likely want to talk to your child. This would consist of a private conversation between the judge and the child so that the child does not seem to be influenced by either of the parents. The judge may also appoint someone to represent the child’s wishes in court, in the form of a guardian ad litem or an attorney. This representative would likely spend some time with the child both with and without their parents so as to get a full picture as to what the child wants and so that they can present that to the court.
How We Can Help
If you, a friend or a family member find themselves in a situation such as this, please call the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. at 305 670-3330 right away. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is a licensed family law attorney who has been practicing law since 1987. He is available whenever you need him to pursue your rights. Please learn about our firm at www.FerrisLawFirm.com.