If you are sharing custody of a child, one of the biggest questions you are likely to ask at some point is if your child can choose which parent to live with. This commonly happens as a child gets older and is better able to express a clear preference about where they want to live.
The short answer to this question is no, your child cannot decide which parent to live with. However, a child’s preference is one of the factors Florida courts examine when making child custody decisions, so how your child feels does matter.
How your child’s age affects custody
As your child gets older, a custody judge will consider their opinion about where they want to live. There is no set age at which courts start to consider the child’s opinion, but it is typically between 13-15 years old.
A custody judge can consider the opinion of a younger child, but the child’s maturity level and ability to express their wishes are considered.
Even if your child clearly tells a custody judge that they want to live with you, that is not a guarantee you will receive full custody. The judge still considers all other custody factors and makes an order that is in the child’s best interest.
You should not give your child unrealistic expectations about the custody process. Chances are, they will be spending some time with each parent.
Full custody is usually only granted in extreme circumstances, such as if one parent is incarcerated or there is strong evidence of child abuse or neglect. It is rarely granted because the child says they do not want to live with that parent.
These types of situations can be incredibly complicated. It is best to talk with a professional and learn about what to expect.