Children may express a preference regarding which parent they want to live with after divorce. If so, does the court always agree?
Under Washington State law, a family court judge should make decisions based on what is in children’s best interest. According to those laws, however, children do not get to choose who to live with. This means the court will not automatically give weight to a child’s desire to live wholly with one parent. Take a deeper look at child custody and the court.
What are the different types of custody?
Two different types of custody decisions must occur when parents divorce. The first is legal custody, or which parent gets to make decisions about health, welfare and education. Family court prefers both parents to share in legal custody and maintain a fair and equal right to children. Physical custody, however, varies based on the ability of the parents to have the children on a weekly or monthly basis. Physical custody may also divide, but one parent may get more time than the other.
Why should a child not decide?
Lawmakers in some states allow children as young as 12 to decide who to live with. In Washington, however, this is not the case. Some of the reasoning behind this is that children may fall victim to parental manipulation and choose to live with one parent over the other. Only after a child turns 18 and ages out of the custody agreement can they decide.
The court wishes parents to work together during divorce to reach custody agreements and parenting plans. Absent this, the judge will take the control out of a couple’s hands and decide based on the evidence presented.