As the best child custody lawyers in Gilbert AZ we often get asked, “when can my child choose which parent he or she wants to live with?” And I’ve got to tell you, when kids get a little bit older, that’s a pretty common question that I get. I think there’s an understanding out there that at some point in time, when kids get to a certain age, they are going to be allowed to pick which parent they want to live with. The fact of the matter is, that there are some states where that’s possible, but Arizona is not one of those states. instead, Arizona, in considering what is in the best interests of a child, does allow a court to consider what the child wants based on their age and maturity.
So how does this happen? Well, typically, this happens either during the time of the divorce or, if the divorce happened years ago, one parent is coming back and seeking modification. Among all of the factors the court has to consider in determining what’s in the best interest of the child, the wishes of the child is one of about ten or eleven factors. So it’s not the only factor the court will consider. Most often, the court will allow the child to be interviewed either by someone from the court or by some kind of a specialist that the court can appoint to get a better understanding as to what the child wants. A child is never going to be allowed to come into court and testify- and it’s very, very, very rare for the judge to interview the child him or herself. So it’s not as simple as simply walking into court and telling the judge what your child wants.
The judge also has to consider the maturity of the child. In my experience, if your child is eight or nine or ten years old, the court is probably not going to give much weight to what your child wants. They just don’t think that that’s an age where a child understands the consequences of their decisions. In my experience, most of the time, a judge puts more weight onto the wishes of a child who is in high school and probably even more specifically when they’re about fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years old. In any event, it’s very rare for a judge to simply tell a child, “You can pick where you want to live and you don’t have to see the other parent.” It is almost always the case that a judge is gonna require some kind of parenting time with both parents, even if the parenting time with one parent is significantly reduced.
We all understand that as kids get older, they want their wishes considered. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe that it’s appropriate to change the parenting schedule or the parenting plan, and your child is of an age where the court should consider his or her wishes, please contact us here at the law offices of Kevin Jensen. Schedule time to meet with one of our attorneys. We’ve handled many of these cases and would be happy to sit down and discuss your specific situation and give you the best advice we can on how to proceed with your specific case. Thank you.
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