In child custody matters, when it comes to whom the child will live with, the parents will be able to argue their case, even if the ultimate decision is up to a judge.
Of course, the child is also affected a great deal by the decision. Do they get a say in the matter?
If the child is young, they may not have a say about where they live. That decision will most likely be made for them. However, if they are older, the court may weigh the child’s preference about where they want to live.
What goes into the custody decision?
If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are having a difficult time coming to a decision together regarding how to divide parenting time or visitation, the judge will step in and make the decision. Of course, the decision that the judge will make is in no way random. They will decide on custody based on the following factors as well as putting the child’s best interests at the top of the priority list:
- The mental and physical state of each parent
- The amount of time that the child has lived at the current home
- Each parent’s moral character
- How communicative each parent is with the other regarding the child’s interests, activities, schedule, supportive of the relationship with the child, etc.
- The child’s situation at school, home and community
- Each parent’s support of the child’s developmental needs
- The ability of each parent to provide stability in the home for the child (including meals, homework, bedtime, etc.)
- The presence of drugs, violence, abuse or neglect in the home
- The preference of the child regarding where they and with whom they would prefer to live
Is the child’s preference always considered by the judge?
In most of the states across the country, the child’s preferences will be weighed before making a custody decision from the minimum age of 14. However, in Florida, there is no specific age. It is left up to the judge to decide. With that being said, however, many judges in Florida will use the unofficial age of the child as 12 or 13 as well as weighing other important factors, including the intelligence and maturity of the child as well as their experiences with both parents and whether the child truly understands the impact of the decision that they are making.
Considering that not all children are the same and that some are more capable of making such as decision than others, it is really handled on a case-by-case basis by the judge. There are some children who are younger than 12 who are capable of making that type of decision and there are some who are older who are not capable at that point in their lives. The judge will also consider the motivation of the child who is making their preference known.
Getting support from a credible source
If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are having difficulty coming to an agreement regarding where and with whom your child will live, the advice of a Florida family law attorney may give you some peace of mind and help you to sort out what may be a really difficult situation. Although your child’s feelings regarding where they feel they want to live is important, their best interests must come out on top of the priority list before making any decision. Your family law attorney can help you to devise a solid, sensible parenting plan that will work for everyone involved.