Divorce can be challenging in many respects, especially with custody decisions. The desire to avoid a prolonged fight is one factor that accounts for most child custody cases settling out of court. According to an article on EarthWeb, approximately 29% of child custody agreements do not even use mediators or courts.
Sometimes, children have a say in deciding which parent they live with. While laws vary by jurisdiction, there are some general principles worth considering.
Age and maturity
As children grow older and wiser, their opinions carry greater weight in custody proceedings. The more articulate they are, the more receptive a judge will be.
Best interests of the child
Courts focus on the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. This means that, even if a dependent expresses a preference, the court will assess whether that choice makes the most sense.
The legal age of majority
In some jurisdictions, once children reach the legal age of majority, they can decide where they will live. Until then, their preferences may receive consideration but are not necessarily binding.
A court may appoint a child custody evaluator to assess the situation. These individuals interview children and weigh various factors. Variables include the child’s relationship with each parent.
Courts are cautious about parental influence. Judges watch for evidence that an adult is coercing a dependent into expressing a particular preference.
Stability and routine
Courts also investigate how much stability and routine each parent can provide. School location, extracurricular activities and community ties greatly influence final decisions.
Children may play a role in settling their future living arrangements during a divorce, but their feelings are only one part of the equation. Understanding the decision-making process will help everyone remain at peace with the outcome.