Divorce is the cruel reality that one faces during a lifetime. This tragic event becomes more painful when children are involved. The children face the trauma more than the parents as all of a sudden, their world is toppled upside down. A child custody battle can worsen the pain if these are fought only to hurt each other and to boost the ego.
What would be good for children becomes a thing of concern of those people (read judges and court) who they have never seen nor met in their lives? Age of the children plays big role in deciding whether they are capable of deciding for themselves which parent they live with.
In many states of America, rules have been modified over the years to keep the child away from the abusive parent and also to grant them their choice in living. So, if you are asking, “Can a child choose which parent to live with?”, meet the family law expert to find what the State tells regarding this.
Can a child choose which parent to live with – See what different state laws propose
Often lawyers come across this question asked by the parents – “Can a child choose which parent to live with?” “My kids are so small; how can they decide what goes in favor of their best interest?” In Pennsylvania, parents are living the lie that when kids reach the age between 12-14, they become eligible for choosing the parent to live with. As a matter of fact, the truth is it is the judge of the case who gets to decide on the custody of the child no matter what age they are in.
In Pennsylvania, to decide whether the child’s wish can be considered for deciding the custody, the child needs coming to the court to testify. He/she, however, is not made to testify in public but the judge meets them in a closed chamber in the presence of the lawyer of each parent. the child has to demonstrate good level of understanding, maturity, and reasoning to back the decision.
If the child prefers to live with a parent solely because of the fact that the parent has chosen is going to let the child do anything desired irrespective of whether good or bad can lead to judging and thinking about the final decision. The poor level of maturity and understanding takes away the chance from the child to decide which parent to live with in case the parents separate.
Neither mom or dad has an advantage when it comes to the decision regarding child custody. If the father is not earning well and has no time for the child, the custody may be given to a well-to-do mother. Similarly, if there is evidence of the abusive behavior of the father or mother, the child gets to live with the parent that comes clean on conduct, behavior, habits, and financial backing.
Child custody rule violation – what it means for the violator in Pennsylvania
Often it happens that the parents intentionally or unintentionally end up violating the child custody decision. This happens when the child visiting period to the parent far away is abnormally less or almost nil.
If both the parents are reasonable, intelligent and responsible towards the children’s wellbeing, they can go to the court again and state the reasons while asking for the change in visiting rules, etc.
Instead of doing this, if they choose to take matters in hand and violate the ruling, the parent who has won custody can report the same and get the violator held up for violating the custody rule.
Thus, it is better to have a clear understanding of what the custodial arrangement entails before accepting it.
Texas family code also takes the child’s choice in consideration while deciding which parent the child can live with after the divorce. It is worth understanding that the judge just takes the choice into consideration, the court does not allow the child to decide about it.
The final ruling of the judge prevails in the matter of child custody. The whole procedure will include the child’s submitting the choice in writing to the court regarding which parent to live with.
The child may also be asked to meet the judge in person to give the reason behind the decision. If the reason is fair enough, the child’s choice will be taken into consideration while starting the custody decision.
According to the Texas Family Code, the child who is 12 years and above of age gets to submit the choice in writing. In many cases, this procedure is manipulated where parents try to convince the child to write the choice in their favor.
In case of doubtful conduct of the parents, the judge may ask the child to meet in person.
Also, one of the parents who smells fishy or wants to be heard can submit the application to the judge to speak to the child in person in addition to considering the written request.
Texas family court normally asserts over the joint custody of the child. They call the custody as Conservatorship and allow sole conservatorship only if:
- A parent is absent from the scene most of the times
- There is a history of drug, alcohol, and crime
- Any of the parents has shown signs of neglect or violence
Can a child choose which parent to live in Florida? What Law Says
Florida Laws regarding the custody of the child are a bit complex and have multiple aspects. The Law, first of all, allows the children to choose which parent to live with only when they have attained the age of 18.
Till then, only the child’s best interests are taken into consideration while deciding the child support, visitation rights, custody, etc. Once the custody is already granted and the parent chooses to relocate, it brings in more complications.
The parent not leaving the town may move to the court to reason in case he/she is not involved in any kind of drug abuse, domestic violence, etc.
Florida laws can be a bit overwhelming for parents seeking child custody. The court does not ask the child to come to the court to testify.
Thus, no matter how hostile the relationship is, if the best interests of the child demand joint custody, the parents will have to work as a team to be available around for the child.
How California Law takes a child’s wish in consideration while granting child custody
California Family Law treats children mature enough to decide which parent to live with when the age of 14 is attained. According to California Law, a 14-year old child is mature enough to allow to express the desire which parent to be with.
However, the mere expressing the wish is not enough. The court goes through the testimonies, sees the past behaviors, episodes of neglect or abuse, if any, before making the decision regarding who would parent the child.
Mostly, the custody is granted in a 50/50 ratio to both the parents. The parents are free to move to court again for challenging the custody in case any one of them chooses to move to a new location in case of better employment opportunities or a career move.
There can be instances of touring jobs also where the parent traveling frequently has to get it clear that the child remains in the custody of other parents in his or her absence.
Courts in California ensure that the child is not made to feel guilty or sad about the decision. If the child states reason which is actually childish and have nothing to do with his or her best interests, the court decides what is good for the child.
The child will not be given the right to choose the parent is they state reasons like mom or dad will be made at me, I do not want to hurt or see my dad or mom cry, I will be having a lot of fun with so and so parent, or my so and so parent allow me staying up long after the bedtime.
All such reasons do not show sound reasoning and thus, do not make to the solid reason behind choosing the parent.
Even after winning the custody, the parent needs to behave in a decent and respectful manner and not consider the decision as some source of expressing the undue sense of win, else it can lead to a further custody battle.
This means putting the child again to the trauma of making difficult decisions. It, therefore, must be avoided to secure the best mental and emotional health of the child.
How child custody case involves a child’s decision in Georgia Law?
According to Georgian Family Law, a child who is 14 years old can express to choose which parent to live with. The wish has to be a written expression.
The court chooses the primary custodian basis the written application received. Once the wish is granted, the child signs an Affidavit of Custody Election and the lawyer submit the same in the court on the behalf of the child.
The expression of wish does not solely decide the fate of the custody battle. The court will take a lot many factors into consideration while mulling over the child’s preference.
If the child has written the wish solely on the basis of emotional blackmailing from the parent, or due to lack of understanding of implications, the court holds the right to go against the child’s written wish and take the decision which is the best for the child.
There is a provision to change child custody over a due course of time. When child custody is granted the first time, the court assesses the conditions, such as:
- Each parent’s home condition
- Mental and physical health of both parents
- The emotional bond between the child and each of the parent
- Display of substance abuse, domestic violence or neglect by parents
- Parent’s financial status to support the child
- Parent’s involvement in a normal day’s activities of the child
Things do change over the period. In case a parent falls ill, moves to another location settles for a new job or remarry, the parents can go to the court to get the custody ruling modified. The child’s consent matters in the changed scenario too. If the children need a change in custody ruling, they get to do it once in a two-year period from the date the custody is granted.
What Michigan Law states about Child’s Choice of Parents in Custody Battle
Michigan Law considers the child aged 17 or older mature enough to express a preference of parent to live within a custody battle. The child has to show the sign of maturity of thinking while expressing the choice.
The reasons considered wise for choosing the parent to live with are – parents helping in the homework and attending all parent-teacher interactions at school, parent spending quality time, a parent taking care of medical needs and parents capable of providing food, shelter and good environment for study.
A child choosing a parent only because of his or her leniency or freedom to do anything is not considered while deciding the custody.
Even if a child is as young as six years, they can have a say in choosing one parent to go with if the sign of maturity is expressed in the wish. A child’s choice, however, is not the only premise that is considered while giving the custody to either of the parents.
The choice expressed by the child is just one amongst the list of all other important factors. The child’s wish comes into picture mostly to break the tie when the parents are well-competent and are meeting all the requirements to enjoy the custody in an equal manner.
While asking for the consent, the child is not supposed to go through any psychologically harmful procedure as per the Michigan law.
The expression of choice is just an informal process in which the child meets the judge separately in the chamber and in the absence of the parents.
The talk is mostly involving the factors which made the child make the choice to ascertain its correctness and reasonability.
The process of the child giving consent is avoidable in the case a parent agrees that the child would prefer the other parent to live with.
In that case, there is no need for meeting the child. The court may decide easily keeping all the other factors in mind.
If the parent is doing so only to avoid harassment from the other parent or to avoid the responsibility, it has to be established with evidence before taking the decision.
Child custody rules in New York – the role of Child’s choice
Unless there is an order, the parents in New York equally enjoy the physical and legal custody of the child. In case there is a disagreement over the custody among the parents, the court may ask the child to express the preference if he or she has completed 18 years of age.
In New York, there is legal custody as well as physical custody. Moreover, In legal custody, the religious upbringing, schooling and medical care related decisions are included. The parents have to agree on the decisions pertaining to this at any point in time.
The legal custody prevails even if the child is physically away from either of the parents. In the case of sole custody, both the legal and physical custody belongs to one parent. This is where the child’s expression of choice comes into the picture.
The custody battle can be quite taxing for the child’s mental peace. The child may be made to feel guilty about the decision or manipulated in other ways to get consent in the favor.
The child’s consent helps in deciding the giving away of the custody; it does not form the premise of the decision.
The child is made to understand that physical custody means residential custody. The parent having residential custody is the one who he or she needs to spend more than 50% of the time with.
The other parent only has visitation rights as laid down by the court. The visitation rights also depend upon the conduct, past behavior, etc.
In case the parent is found totally unworthy of staying any near to the child or if there is no role taken by the parent in the child’s upbringing for all the years passed, the court may automatically give the custody to the parent who is more involved, without asking the child’s consent.
The child custody battles remain more or less the same in all parts of the USA. The only difference lies in the threshold age when the child enjoys the right to choose the parent to live with.
The custody battle involves child support, visitation rights, and right to taking decisions regarding the physical and mental wellbeing of the child. Thus, to win it all, it is better to have good conduct as a parent.
Approaching the legal experts of the state you live in for the legal advice also helps in stating the position clearly to the court. Some courts will offer the mediation also to help the parents understand the custody requirements better and to arrive upon the consensus.
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