Can My Child Express a Preference in a Custody Case?
One of the most difficult issues in any Florida divorce is the matter of child custody and visitation. In most cases, the judge will encourage the parents to come up with their own child custody arrangement that works best for them. If the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation, the court will step in and make the decision for them. The court will weigh a number of factors when determining child custody, and one factor may include the child’s preference for custody. If you have questions about when your child may express a preference in their custody case, call or contact a Tampa divorce lawyer at the law office of Blair H. Chan, III today.
Florida Law and Child Preference
In many states, the law dictates how old a child must be in order to express a preference in their own custody case. However, Florida has no particular age restrictions on a child when it comes to sharing their opinions on their custody case. Instead, the judge must make the determination on whether to include the child’s preference as a potential factor based on a three prong test:
- Whether the child is intelligent enough to make a choice
- Whether the child understands the decision they are making
- Whether the child has enough experience with each parent to make a meaningful choice
Typically, a judge will take a teenager’s preference into consideration far more often than an adolescent; however, children as young as ten or eleven years old have been able to express their preference in their custody case. A child can testify to their preference in open court, but this method usually only happens in an emergency or when absolutely necessary. A judge can also ask a counselor or child psychologist to speak with the child to learn their preference, or the judge can speak to the child privately in their chambers.
Other Factors Considered in a Custody Matter
It is important to note that a child’s express preference is not the final say in the matter. It is only one factor in a list of many that the judge must weigh when determining what custody decision is in the best interests of the child. Other factors weighed alongside the child’s preference include the following:
- Each parent’s willingness to abide by the parenting schedule
- Each parent’s willingness to keep the other informed about the child’s activities
- Anticipated division of parental responsibilities
- The length of time the child has lived in their current residence
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- Each parent’s moral fitness
- The child’s connection to their school, home, and community
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s developmental needs
- Any evidence of abuse or neglect, and
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the case
Call or Contact Us
If you would like to learn more about when your child can give a preference in their custody case, call or contact the law office of Blair H. Chan, III today to schedule an initial consultation.