Can a Child in Florida Choose Which Parent to Live With?

During divorce proceedings, there are some big decisions that will be made. This is especially true when there are children involved. One of the most significant, and often most contentious, issues is child custody. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on their own, the court will decide custody by considering a number of factors and keeping in line with the best interest of the child standard. The court will consider things such as the moral fitness of each parent as well as their mental and physical health. Additionally, the court will evaluate how parental responsibilities are likely to be divided in the future and the child’s home and community history. In some cases, the child will also have a say in which parent he or she will live with.

Can Children Choose Who to Live With?

While a child cannot legally choose which parent to live with, he or she may have the preference considered when the court is weighing all factors relevant to the child custody decision. Whether a child’s preference will be taken into account in this determination will depend on whether the court, as stated in Florida Statute 61.13, “deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.” There is no exact age established by law that provides for a child to decide which parent to live with.

When determining whether a child meets the statutory requirements associated with being able to voice a preference of which parent to live with, the court will evaluate the child to see if he or she has the level of intelligence needed to know about the costs and benefits of living with either parent. The child must understand the weight of the decision being made and the kind of consequences associated with the decision. Finally, the child must have enough experience spending time with each parent to properly assess which parent would be the preferred one to live with. Generally speaking, children about the age of 12 years or older have their preference considered in custody decisions, but this fluctuates depending on the intelligence, understanding, and experience of each specific child. The court will also take great care to ensure the preference expressed by a child is not the result of any coercion exerted by either parent.

In some cases, there will be multiple children involved. The court will render a custody decision for each child separately. The custody situation for siblings will be a factor considered by the court in rendering a custody decision, but, again, this decision is based on a number of other factors as well. Each child is evaluated based on individual needs and what would be in the best interest of that particular child. It should also be noted that a child will not be forced to testify as to what parent he or she prefers to live with.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

At Orlando Family Team, we understand the importance of any decision that relates to children. We are here to help you through all issues incident to child custody. Our team of family law attorneys is committed to always representing and pursuing the best interests of our clients. Contact us today.