When do courts consider the child’s preference in custody cases?

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2024 | Time Sharing and Child Custody

In Florida, courts weigh several factors when determining time-sharing and child custody arrangements. These factors include the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s mental and physical health and any history of domestic violence.

However, one factor that usually causes uncertainty among parties is the child’s preference. While courts do consider it, they only do under certain circumstances.

The court’s criteria for considering the child’s wishes

Under Florida custody laws, a court will only consider a child’s preference in its time-sharing and custody determination if the child is of sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience to make such expression.

How do courts know a child is of sufficient intelligence? There is no fixed standard on how courts determine this. Nonetheless, judges typically look into the child’s age and maturity to express a reasoned preference.

Moreover, while there is no specific age at which a child’s preference must be considered, courts usually give more weight to the preferences of older children because they are generally considered to have a greater capacity for mature judgment. Additionally, they also have better ability to articulate their feelings and experiences than younger children.

Aside from this, courts will only consider a child’s preference if it is reasonable. Preferences based on one parent being more permissive or generous with gifts may not have as much weight as preferences based on emotional bonds or the stability of the environment.

Consistency with the child’s best interests

The child’s preference is not determinative of the court’s final decision. If the child’s preference is merely based on superficial reasons or if following it would be harmful to the child, the court may not give it much weight. Ultimately, the court’s determination based on the available factors must align with the child’s best interests.

Navigating the complexities of custody and time-sharing arrangements can be challenging. If you are worried about how to proceed in a custody-related matter, consulting with a custody lawyer could be a beneficial step toward finding a resolution in your family’s best interests.