Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live within a Michigan Divorce?
Divorce can be a messy undertaking, fraught with intense emotions and the challenges of splitting up a household. When children are involved, it becomes even more complicated.
It’s only natural for both parents to want to remain in contact with children, which is why joint custody is often the preferred solutions (provided both parents can provide stable, loving households). That said, it’s not always entirely up to parents to decide where children will live.
If parents can’t come to a decision on their own and children are caught in the crossfire, the kids themselves may be called upon to weigh in, stating a preference as to which parent they would rather live with. This can be a heavy burden for kids to bear, and it can damage familial relationships.
In what circumstances might children involved in a custody case in Michigan be allowed to decide which parent to live with, or when could their opinions be considered by the court? Here’s what every responsible parent should know.
Court Custody Decisions
If parents can’t come to a custody agreement on their own, the duty falls to the courts, and judges must take several factors into consideration when determining how best to award custody of children. For each parent, courts may consider:
– Love, affection, and emotional bond with children
– Ability to provide for children’s physical needs (food, clothing, medical care, etc.)
– Ability to provide emotional, academic, and religious guidance
– Stability of the home
– Physical and mental health
– Moral fitness
– Willingness to support children’s relationships with the other parent
– Any history of domestic violence
– and more
In some cases, courts may also take children’s preferences into account, but in the state of Michigan, there are set limits on how and when this occurs.
Circumstances Where Children Can Decide Where to Live
The only situation in which children may outright decide which parent they want to live with during divorce and custody proceedings is when they are age 17 or older. Even so, the court will still have the final decision on the matter, even though the preference of the child will play a role.
That said, courts may ask children as young as nine if they have a preference, and potentially factor this information into a final custody arrangement. In such cases, the judge will have to determine if a child’s rationale for choosing one parent over the other is “reasonable”. A child may prefer the parent that is more lenient, but this doesn’t necessarily ensure a better environment for the child, and the court will consider that when making a decision.
The Interview Process
Children are rarely required to appear in court for the purposes of determining custody, as asking a child to state a preference with both parents watching could be considered psychologically damaging. Instead, children are typically interviewed in private by the judge, with attorneys and a court reporter present (or not) at the discretion of the judge. Again, the judge will make a final determination about custody based on a number of important factors, but for children over the age of nine, their preference could make a difference.
If you’re going through a contentious divorce and custody battle, you’ll need a qualified attorney to help you obtain the best possible outcome. Contact the experts at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 or online to schedule a consultation.
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