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Can a child decide the parent they want to live with?

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2023 | Family Law |

When the marriage is broken beyond repair and divorce is underway, it is not uncommon for the parents to have differing views on the child’s living arrangements. Still, the child might have their own preference of the parent they want to live with after the divorce.

Generally, the court has the final say on how divorcing parents will share parenting time. Usually, this decision is made in the best interests of the child. But does the child’s opinion count?

Circumstances when the court may take the child’s preference into account

If the child is old and mature enough to give an independent opinion, then the court may consider their preference. However, the ultimate decision lies with the court. While there is no specific age stipulation for the court to consider the child’s opinion, the judge will use the following parameters when giving weight to the child’s preference:

  • The child’s reasons for preferring to live with one parent over the other
  • How the child’s preference will impact their school and other life needs like specialized medical care, if they need some
  • Any existing parenting plans
  • The parent’s willingness to grant the child their wishes
  • Any other consideration that the court might consider relevant to the best interests of the child.

Of course, the court will be interested in finding out whether the child has the mental, intellectual and emotional capability to independently express themselves. If there is evidence of manipulation by either parent, then the court will likely overrule their wishes.

Safeguarding the child’s best interests

Child custody can be a complex and contentious subject, especially if divorce is acrimonious. Understanding how Alabama divorce and child custody laws work can help you protect your child’s best interests while working out your post-divorce parenting plan.