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
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.
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.