During a divorce, a court rules on the allocation of parental responsibilities by considering what is in the best interest of the child. Listening to the child’s preferences is part of understanding their best interest, but courts will not give a child’s preference the same weight in every case. A parenting plan is an important part of creating a structured living environment for children after their parents have separated. Though the parents and the court want the child to be happy with the arrangement, there are times when adults have a better understanding of what is best for the children.
How Child Preference Is Weighed
Children of divorce may have a preference about which parent they will live with for a majority of the time. However, the issue of child preference does not come up in many parenting cases. Some children are uncomfortable choosing sides or admitting that they have a preference. When they do express a preference, the court may give it little or no credence if:
- The child is not mature enough to explain why they are choosing one parent
- The preference is clearly not in the child’s best interest
- One of the parents appears to be manipulating the child’s opinion
Rather than have the child testify in front of a judge, the court may assign a licensed professional to talk with the child and discern their preference without parental interference.
Even when a court acknowledges child preference, it is just one of several factors that a court must consider, including:
- The parents’ wishes
- The child’s needs
- Each parent’s ability to independently care for the children
- The parents’ individual parenting roles during the marriage
- The parents’ willingness to cooperate with each other
- The cost and difficulty of transporting the children between residences
- The child’s existing school and community connections
- Whether one of the parents may be a danger to the children
Child preference has the greatest influence on a court’s decision when the other factors equally favor both parents. However, there are many cases in which the other factors point to one parent being in a better position to have a majority of the parenting time.
Contact a Batavia Divorce Attorney
When negotiating a divorce parenting plan, you must remember that your decisions should serve the best interest of your children. A Kane County divorce lawyer at Van Larson Law, P.C., understands that you need time with your children and an active role in making parenting decisions. To schedule a consultation, call 630-879-9090.