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Florida Child Custody Disputes: When Do Child Preferences Matter?


Under Florida law, child custody cases are resolved using the state’s ‘best interests of the child’ legal standard. In effect, this means that Florida family law courts make child custody decisions by taking a look at the totality of the circumstances in a given cases, and assessing what type of custody and time-sharing arrangement will be best for the child in question. Our state’s family law courts look at many different factors when reviewing child custody disputes. This raises an important question: Can a child simply choose which parent they want to live with in Florida?

Children Do Not Get to Make Their Own Custody Decision  

The most straightforward answer to this question is that children do not get to decide the results of a child custody case. Under Florida law, children are never granted the authority to make a final custody decision for themselves. Ultimately, the court will review all relevant factors, and determine what is in the best interests of the child. Once children turn eighteen, then they can choose their own living arrangement. However, before that time, Florida courts will not put the child custody decision in the hands of a child. This is true even if the child wants to make the choice. 

The Caveat: Older Children May Be Allowed to Have Some Input  

It should be noted that a child’s expressed desires can sometimes carry some weight in court. Florida family law judges have the power to consider the wishes of a child, if that child is old enough and mature enough to give informed input. To be clear, there is no specified age at which a child will be allowed to give input. Florida’s statutes and the state’s case law do not define when a child is old enough to give input. Instead, it will always depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Indeed, some children may not be allowed to have input until they become a legal adult. While children who are thirteen years old and younger will almost never be allowed to give any input in a child custody case in Florida, there are some cases in which children who are as young as fourteen or fifteen years old may be allowed to have their voice heard. For a child’s desires to have any weight, they must be able to articulate a legitimate basis for their decision.

Contact Our Orlando Child Custody Attorneys Today  

At the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., our compassionate child custody lawyer has deep experience handling very complex child custody cases. Our legal team promises to always treat our clients with the sensitivity and respect that their needs deserve.

To find out more about how our law firm can protect your custody rights, please contact us today to request your fully confidential initial consultation. We are located in Orlando and represent parents throughout Orange County, Florida, including in Winter Garden, Winter Park, Lake Buena Vista, Maitland and Apopka.



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