Can my Child Choose His or Her Own Custody Arrangement?
For divorcing parents, timesharing is typically one of the biggest issues to work out in their divorce. In Florida, the term “timesharing” refers to the court-ordered arrangement of when the child is with each parent and has essentially replaced the term “visitation”. In cases which involve minor children, a Parenting Plan must be created, which dictates how the parents will spend time with the child(ren) and other details involving the child(ren) which are specific to the family. The Court must approve the Parenting Plan, and will most likely do so as long as it is in the child’s best interest. The Parenting Plan becomes part of the Final Judgment entered by the Court in a divorce or paternity case.
To reach this determination, the court considers numerous factors. Although a child cannot decide his or her parenting plan outright, his or her preferences may be considered under certain circumstances.
How Old is your Child?
If your child is 18 or older (unless there are special circumstances), the timesharing for that child does not need to be addressed. After your child has reached the age of majority, he or she may reside at a place of their own choosing, whether that be with one of the parents or on their own.
For minors, typically the older the child, the more consideration the court gives his or her preference. There is no specific age at which the child’s preference becomes a factor to consider. Rather, the court can use its discretion to determine if the child is mature enough to develop a reasonable preference and how much weight the Court will give to that preference.
Why Does your Child Want to Live with that Parent?
In making a decision as to whether to consider the child’s preference, the Court may look to many factors, including the reasons for the preference. It is not often that your child will be allowed to talk to the Judge. In most cases, if your child’s concerns need to be explored, a representative may need to be appointed to make a recommendation to the Court, which is in the child’s best interest.
The court also must determine whether the child is truly voicing his or her own opinion or if he or she is simply repeating a parent’s preference.
Is your Child’s Choice in His or Her Best Interest?
The child’s preference is only one of many factors the court must consider in determining which arrangement is in his or her best interest. For example, the Court will consider the child’s education and whether switching schools would be beneficial to the child. Other issues like each parent’s income, age, health, and willingness to cooperate with each other and the court are considered, as are the child’s personal needs and the other individuals residing in each household.
Work with an Experienced Orlando Family Lawyer
The goal of a parenting plan is to ensure that the child’s emotional, physical, academic, and psychological needs are met while he or she maintains a healthy, consistent relationship with each parent. The right plan can be very different from family to family. When a child reaches an age where he or she can articulate his or her reason for wanting a specific arrangement, the child’s opinion may be considered as one of the factors for the final order. Contact our team of Orlando family lawyers at Goodblatt-Leo today to set up your initial consultation in our office.