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Can Kids Decide Which Parent Gets More Parenting Time?


Remember that time you told your six-year-old son that he had to stop playing video games and sit down to dinner with you and his visiting grandparents, and he said that you were a mean parent and he hated living with you?  All was probably forgiven by the time the main course was served?  It breaks your heart when your nine-year-old daughter comes to your house for your parenting time and says that she prefers her time with Mom and Stepdad, because Stepdad promises to build a McMansion from the ground, and your daughter will get to decorate her bedroom in epically awesome ways.  You also know that Stepdad is full of B.S., and the McMansion will probably never materialize.  Remember when your grandparents used to visit you and your happily married parents and teasingly ask you which parent you loved more?  It was a cruel game, and you hated it, even though all your relatives found your answers adorable.  All of these are reasons why asking a child which parent they prefer to live with is usually not helpful in guiding judges’ decisions about parenting schedules.  The courts only consider the child’s preference in very specific circumstances.  If your divorce or post-divorce dispute has gotten to the point where a judge must set the parenting schedule, you need a Palm Beach County child custody lawyer.

The Child’s Reasonable Preference Is One of Many Factors

The child’s best interest is important above all in child custody cases.  The court can require a parent to remain in Florida, change their work hours, or limit their contact with a romantic partner if doing these things is in the child’s best interest.  The court considers a long list of factors when deciding the child’s best interest for purposes of parenting plans, and the child’s reasonable preference is just one of these factors.  The law does not specify an age at which a child is mature enough that his or her preference can be considered reasonable; case law includes cases where judges asked children as young as eleven to specify a preference.

Is It in the Child’s Best Interest to Express a Preference?

Asking a child to voice a preference about parenting time is a no-win situation.  According to Jude Egan and Lisa Strohman, testifying in divorce court is unimaginably traumatic for children.  Knowing that a child will be asked to express a preference can lead the parents into a war of escalation, either trying to outdo each other in winning the child’s favor or else saying terrible things about each other to the child.  Neither of these behaviors by parents is in the child’s best interest.  If it is necessary to determine the child’s preference, it is best not to require the child to tell his or her preference directly to a judge.

Let Us Help You Today

A Boca Raton child custody lawyer can help you resolve your parenting time dispute at the lowest possible emotional cost to your children.  Contact Schwartz | White for a consultation.



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