This is the final post in a series of articles discussing when Florida Courts will defer to the wishes of a child regarding custody and visitation with their parents. As discussed throughout this series, divorcing parents are often misinformed about this subject. While a child’s preference may, at times, be considered by the Court, it is one of a myriad of factors that a Judge will take into account when evaluating what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. There is no “magic age” at which a child’s choice will be the singular deciding factor. Our objective in this series has been to clarify when and how a child’s opinion may impact a custody decision. Parents who are involved in a custody dispute are encouraged to discuss their specific situations with a lawyer to understand their legal rights. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with an attorney.
This series focused on the following topics:
- At what age can a child refuse visitation in Florida?
- When the court takes a child’s preference into account
- Challenging a parent’s request that the court defer to a child’s discretion
- How a parent should handle their child’s refusal to see their co-parent
We felt it was important to address this topic for several reasons. First, despite popular belief, there is no legally prescribed age at which a child can make a choice about living with or visiting one parent or the other. Second, depending upon the age and maturity level of a child, a Judge may consider their opinion regarding custody and visitation. Even so, this is only one of many factors in the analysis. Third, in some instances, the Court will disregard the child’s preference entirely if the choice is clearly not in their best interest. For instance, if the other parent can demonstrate that the child’s choice is self-serving or based on immature or irrational reasoning, the Judge may decline to consider their opinion. Finally, a parent whose child refuses to follow the terms of the custody order may not know how to handle the situation. It is important to consider how to appropriately react and to understand the legal implications of this behavior.
When a child feels strongly about their living arrangements or visitation schedules or is being asked to present their opinion on such matters to a Judge, it is important to discuss such matters with an attorney to understand how this may impact your case. If you need assistance, contact our Melbourne office to speak with a lawyer today. We also serve the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.