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Is There A Set Age in Which a Child Can Choose Which Parent to Live With?

It is a question commonly asked by divorced or divorcing couples – when will my child be old enough to decide which parent her or she wants to live with? The reason behind this inquiry can vary, as sometimes the noncustodial parent wants the child to live with them or the child asks to move in with the other parent. Unfortunately, Florida law provides no set age in which a child of divorced parents is guaranteed the right to choose where to live.

Florida Time Sharing Law

It is true that there are some cases in which a judge has taken a child’s preference into consideration and given it heavy weight; however, generally children are not given the right to make such custody decisions. Specifically, Florida Statute 61.13(3)(i) notes the presiding judge should take the child’s preferences into consideration. Because there is no legal obligation to rule according to the child’s wishes, each judge has the discretion as to how much weight to give this preference.

Furthermore, whether a child is even allowed to speak directly to the court in a proceeding is also at the discretion of the judge. Some judges find it inappropriate for a child to be a part of a family case no matter the circumstances, while others decide this issue on a case-by-case basis. In the latter situation, a judge likely will consider the following factors:

  1. whether the child knows the difference between the truth and untruths;
  2. whether the child is sufficiently emotionally and intellectually intelligent to have a valid opinion of parental preference;
  3. whether or not the child even has a preference;
  4. whether or not the child wants to voice his or her opinion before the court; and
  5. whether or not the child is being pressured, threatened or manipulated by someone into giving a false opinion.

Florida law does explicitly state, however, that a family law judge must take into consideration the “best interest of the child” when determining child custody and visitation matters, among other issues. Beyond the “best interest of the child”, the courts are also guided by an array of other factors including, but not limited to, the reasonableness of the child’s preference and whether he or she is of sufficient intelligence, experience and understanding to even express a preference.

Orlando Child Time Sharing Attorney

If you or someone you know has questions relating to child custody rights and obligations in Florida – or is concerned about any other legal matter relating to family law issues – contact the experienced legal professionals at Steve W. Marsee, P.A. Do not try to navigate this complicated area of the law alone. These legal professionals can guide you through this process with sensitivity and skill. Serving the families of central Florida and beyond with years of experience, Mr. Marsee can assist you in understanding your rights under the law. Call (407) 521-7171 to schedule your initial consultation.

Steve W. Marsee, P.A.

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