Can an Older Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Florida?

Can an Older Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Florida?

Posted By R. Gregory Colvin LLC || 19-Aug-2019

There is no doubt that one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce or breakup between unmarried parents is child custody. Even if the divorce is amicable, years down the road circumstances can change and one of the parents may ask a family law attorney, “At what age can a child choose which parent to live with in Florida?” This is a question that comes up a lot.

It is a common misconception that once a child reaches the magic age of 13 or 14 that he or she can decide which parent to live with. In reality, a child does not have this sole right until they reach the age of majority, which is 18.

Until a child becomes a legal adult at the age of 18, he or she does not have the power to choose which parent to live with. If the parents can’t agree, only a judge has the authority. But this isn’t only the case in Florida, it’s like this across the board though each state has different policies about if or when it will consider a child’s custody preference.

Will a Judge Consider a Child’s Wishes?

Will a Florida judge consider a child’s preference in a child custody case? It is possible, though a child’s preference alone is not enough to make a custody decision. Florida judges are hesitant to let a child testify in court, but a mature child may be able to voice their wishes through a guardian ad litem or through a psychologist. Judges generally do not like putting children on the stand and asking them to testify in front of both parents.

“Can my child talk to the judge behind the scenes in the judge’s chambers?” Most Florida judges do not want to talk to children who are below 14-years-old. So, as we mentioned above, a child may be able to express their preference by speaking with a guardian ad litem or through another expert, who can give the child a voice.

The Parents’ Role in Custody

Generally speaking, the parents should know what is in the best interests of their children, but if they cannot agree on custody, a judge will have to decide for them based on the “best interests of the child” standard.

If an older child around 16 or 17-years-old has a strong preference, it’s more likely that the court will give more weight to the child’s preference than if the child was much younger. It is, however, very rare for a child to testify in court against one of their parents.

Next: Parental Alienation & What You Can Do About It

If you need legal assistance with a child custody matter in Orlando, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with Attorney Colvin.

Categories: Divorce, Child Custody

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