Raising a child isn’t easy, and you expected your divorce to complicate things a bit. What you didn’t expect, however, was your pre-teen child to suddenly announce that they intended to go live with their other parent.
You have physical custody of your child right now, but you know that your ex-spouse supports (and may have encouraged) your child’s decision.
What happens now?
Custody decisions are made on behalf of the child, not by them
In all custody cases, the court will make decisions based on what’s in the best interests of the child. That may or may not coincide with the child’s wishes or intentions.
One factor the court may consider in a custody case is the child’s preference, but there are caveats. For example:
- If there’s an existing custodial agreement, the court will only modify things if there has been a “significant change” in circumstances that warrants the action.
- The court has to consider the child to be “of sufficient age” to coherently express their preference in living arrangements. The younger the child, the less weight the court may attach to their wishes.
- The child’s preference must also be reasonable, which means that the court will likely look deeply into the child’s motives.
Judges are also conscious of the fact that parents can sometimes manipulate a child’s preferences. They will look into the history behind a sudden demand — and that can include a look at how recently the child has been spending time with the other parent.
Should you get help?
Absolutely. Speaking with a family law attorney today is the wisest move you can make to protect your relationship with your child.