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What if the child wants a voice in the child custody decision?

| May 4, 2021 | Child Custody |

In Michigan family law cases, one of the common sources of discord is child custody. The parents might have certain goals in the case and this can lead to a contentious back and forth. Even in cases where the sides are relatively friendly, there might be issues that complicate the situation. The child might take a back seat as the debate moves forward. In some instances, however, the child will have a perspective that he or she wants heard. The court can make its determination by itself, but it also has the leeway to give the child a voice in the decision. Understanding how the court will consider what the child wants is key for everyone involved.

When will the court listen to the child’s preference?

According to state law, the court can listen to the child’s reasonable preference if the child is deemed to be of sufficient age and maturity to express it while understanding the ramifications. The key word is “reasonable.” This is not easy to gauge and the judge in the case must assess the situation. The basics are the child’s age and the consistency of the statements. Chronological age is not the sole consideration. The assessment of the child’s maturity is fundamental. Regardless, the child will not make the final decision until turning 18 or being emancipated. Before that, the court decides.

With consistency, the child must have a history of expressing the reasonable preference and not recently changing it due to mitigating factors. These might include having spent a significant amount of time with the mother or father in recent weeks or experiencing short-term issues with one parent or the other. The basic concern is the if the child completely understands the decision that is being made.

The complexities of child custody make professional assistance imperative

Independent of whether the parents are in rampant disagreement over child custody, they are willing to negotiate or the child has a strong opinion, having professional guidance is essential. Since these cases are emotionally charged, they can quickly turn problematic. Knowing the types of custody available, what the judge will consider and how the child’s viewpoint will be received are all part of the process. Having experienced advice is a wise first step.