Divorce is often a confusing and anxious time for children, especially when custody issues arise.
Children and parents tend to have preferences for custody arrangements, and even when the parents agree to specific terms, the court typically determines the custody arrangement.
The age for involvement
Even though children may want to take part in the decision over their future living arrangements, parents may want to protect them from the emotional challenges that accompany lengthy court sessions or interviews with lawyers. However, the court allows children 12 years and older to interview with the judge and talk about their opinions, desires or wishes concerning custody.
While the child is able to talk freely with the judge, the child does not have the final say in where he or she will live. The judge does not have to use the child’s wishes in making the determination. The judge must take the following into consideration:
- The circumstances of the case
- Any changes in circumstance if a custody agreement is in place
- Whether or not the child’s wishes are in the best interest of the child
The court understands that children of any age are potentially susceptible to parental manipulation during this process.
The ability to testify
In many cases, the court will appoint an advocate to talk to the children involved and gather information on the interests and arrangements to help the child remain healthy and happy. In these cases, this advocate is the one to testify during the case or submits a report for use in the judge’s decision-making.
Children have the option to get involved with the custody arrangements. However, they do not have the final decision.