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At what age can a child weigh in on child custody?

Most children have distinct opinions and feelings on important issues that affect them. Michigan parents who are headed for divorce will find that if their children are old enough to express their opinions, they may have a preference about with which parent they would like live, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. In fact, only one state in the country legally gives a child that choice when he or she is at least 14 years old, and it isn’t Michigan.

Children’s wishes do matter

Although child custody is not entirely up to children, most family court judges do give credence to how children feel. Children do have the right to share their opinions, but it is only when parents can’t agree on child custody issues that cases move into the court system. There, a judge will decide custody based on what he or she believes is in the best interests of the child. Overall in the country, children 14 and older can weigh in on custody issues, while children 9 and under usually can’t.

What will a judge look at?

A judge will listen to a child’s wishes, however there are other factors he or she will consider such as:

  • The bond the child has with each parent
  • Whether there are issues of substance abuse and/or domestic violence
  • A parent’s criminal history
  • A history of mental illness
  • Whether a parent can financially provide for the child

Children in Michigan don’t normally testify in court since it can be frightening for them. They usually share their thoughts directly with a judge in the judge’s office, a child custody evaluator or a court appointee. A child has the right to have each parent’s lawyers attend these discussions, but not their parents.

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