Mom or Dad? Possibilities of a Child Choosing with Whom to Live
It’s usually assumed that children will keep living with their mothers if their parents get divorced. The couple often assumes that’s what the arrangement will be, and so do the children. But what’s “usual” isn’t what’s “always.” Sometimes, one or both parents want the children to live with dad, and sometimes, the children would rather live with dad.
Either arrangement is completely acceptable so long as it’s what everyone agrees on and it’s what is in the best interest of the children. But when it comes to divorce and child custody issues, amicable agreement is hardly the norm. And if the children are older, the parents may believe that they get to say who they want to live with and settle the argument. Here’s what the law really says:
No Magical Age
As harsh as it may sound, a child is still a child until they reach 18, and children do not have legal rights to make decisions in custody cases. Many parents believe that children as young as 12 should be able to say who they want to live with after their parents break up, and even more believe that – surely – children ages 13, 14, or 15 would have a say.
Unfortunately, children of any age do not have a legal say. However, that doesn’t mean that their opinions count for nothing. The courts will take what the children have to say into consideration when making a ruling. The older the children are, the more weight their opinions are likely to have.
What the Courts Consider
The legal system is meant to protect what is in the best interests of the children, and that is what the judge should consider when making a ruling. Therefore, your child’s wishes may be considered, but they will certainly not be heard in a vacuum.
For example, a 12-year-old may say that he wants to live with his dad, but the judge will want to know more about why he feels this way. It could be that he wants to live with dad because he’s worried about hurting his feelings. Or it could be that he wants to live with dad because he gets to stay up late and doesn’t have supervision after school. These aren’t good reasons to decide that the child should live with dad.
However, if it’s revealed that the child wants to live with dad because they have a stronger relationship or because mom is not as attentive or has a problem with yelling or hitting, then the judge will likely consider those to be persuasive reasons.
Parents should avoid trying to persuade their children on these matters. The judge may consider such efforts to manipulate to be evidence of poor parenting choices, and these behaviors may backfire.
Working with a Family Law Lawyer
Judges use certain objective criteria to make child custody decisions, but so much of what they rule is based on subjective understanding. No one can ever truly know your family without living with you and seeing you interact every day. The best the judge can do is review the evidence the attorneys provide, and hear from the family itself.
By working with the right child custody attorney, you can improve the chances that the judge will gain the best understanding of what is in your children’s best interests. Your Phoenix child custody lawyer will present extensive evidence for arguing why your child should live with you and for why the visitation schedule proposed is the right one. Your lawyer will also call on the right experts to provide testimony, as well as witnesses who can share their observations of your family.
My AZ Family Law Lawyers can help with your custody or divorce case in Arizona. A family law lawyer in Phoenix can help you put together the best case for the child custody arrangement you want. If you have an older child who is arguing to live with the other parent, your custody lawyer can put you in touch with resources like family therapists who can help you to work through these issues as a family. In the meantime, your child custody attorney will help you fight in court for what’s truly best for your children. You can work with someone who is a custody and divorce attorney to handle both issues at once. Call us in Arizona today to discuss your case.
My AZ Family Law Lawyers
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