can a child choose which parent to live with?

Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live with During an Auburn Divorce?

Divorcing or separating parents will often have different views on where their kids should live after the separation. Further, the children may have their own opinions on where they want to stay and their preferred parenting time schedule. An Auburn family court judge may base their decision on the best interests of the child, including the well-being and safety of the child.

Under What Circumstances Will Courts Consider a Child’s Preference?

Courts in Auburn, AL will consider the child’s choices during custody decisions whenever the child is old and mature enough to voice their opinion. The preference of the child does not control the court’s decision but does weight heavily in the final judgment. No specific age stipulations exist for courts to consider a child’s opinion. On the contrary, in each case, the judge must establish whether the child is sufficiently mature to have a reasonable preference.

The reasons of the child’s desire to reside with one parent over the other can impact the weight the judge gives the child’s preference. For instance, if a child is upset with one parent for a disciplinary practice, the court will not give the preference much weight. On the other hand, if the child states that they have a better relationship with one parent or says that one parent has been assisting them with their educational needs, the judge will likely give a lot of weight to the child’s choice.

Also, the court may consider a child’s choice in conjunction with the other custody factors enlisted above. For instance, a father got custody of three children when two expressed to the judge that they prefer to live with their father and the third stated that he had no preference but did not want to separate from his siblings.

Best Interest and Preference

An Auburn court will not follow a child’s preference if the judge thinks that it is against the best interests of the child. In a specific case, a judge awarded child custody to the mom while the children expressed a preference to live with their father, as an expert witness testified that the kids would be psychologically better off residing with their mother.

Further, the court will not give any weight to a child’s opinion if the judge has reason to believe that one parent is manipulating the child to choose them over the other parent.

Is it Necessary for Children to Testify about their Custodial Preferences in Court?

Under Alabama law, requiring a child to testify about their custodial preferences in court is discouraged. Rather, it is more common for a judge to bring the child into chambers to state their preferences in front of the parent’s lawyers, but not with the parents present. Both parents must be agreeable to let the judge talk to the child privately. The lawyers are allowed to ask the child questions on the parent’s behalf. Also, the parents can request the court to record the discussion.

The Auburn court can also take testimony from an expert witness who has talked to the child about their custodial choice. For instance, a custodial evaluator or court-appointed professional counselor could speak with a child and later testify in front of a judge about what the child stated.

Child-Focused Custody Decision by Auburn Judges

The role of the judge in a divorce case involving children is to establish what is in the best interest of the child. When it comes to the following, the judge will likely consider your child’s needs above your own:

  • Cohesiveness of the family unit by keeping the siblings, step siblings, half-siblings, and adopted siblings together
  • Determining a co-parenting schedule or child custody schedule that favors one parent over the other (most courts presume 50/50 child custody)
  • Deciding higher or lower child support than you anticipated
  • Reconsidering child custody or financial orders if you or your ex-spouse are remarried or have other kids
  • Choosing the most suitable environment between two homes
  • Limiting changes that the child may endure (such as ensuring they remain at the same school or residence)

It may sometimes appear as if judges take sides. However, Alabama law enforces minor children’s best interests over any other family members.

Will it Impact Child Custody if One Spouse is at Fault?

In some cases, if one party is at fault, it may impact the custody decision. But in and of itself, acts such as adultery do not represent an absolute bar to winning custody. If a party’s misconduct affects the children of the marriage, they it may impact a custody case.

The crux of understanding whether bad conduct or a bad habit by one spouse may impact custody is to understand whether this habit or conduct directly impacted the children or whether it is more collateral to custody and more centered on the disintegration of the marriage.

How a Skilled Auburn Attorney Can Help with Custody and Visitation

Are you involved in a child custody or visitation dispute? If yes, it is vital for you to work with a seasoned family law attorney in Auburn, AL. The attorneys at Alsobrook Law Group understand exactly how to present your case in a manner that displays that you can provide a comfortable and stable home for your child.

We are deeply aware of the intricacies in Alabama law and will take every step to make sure that you and your child remain together. For a free consultation with a compassionate and competent family law attorney, call today at (334) 737-3718.