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Does my child get to pick which parent has custody?

One of the big challenges divorcing couples can face is navigating the troubled waters of their children’s emotions and opinions about the divorce. It can be particularly difficult for parents to deal with situations where their children have preferences about which parent they want to live with after the divorce. In some cases the preference is clear, while in other cases it may be mixed or inconsistent.  

Whatever the case may be, parents may wonder whether their children’s custody preferences can impact their parenting plan and, if so, how much? Under Michigan law, judges are given significant discretion to make decisions regarding custody matters and they consider a number of factors when making these decisions. In cases where it is determined that a child is old enough to be able to express a preference regarding custody, judges are allowed to take into consideration the reasonable preference of the child. 

There is no strict age threshold for when a child may express a custody preference, but Michigan courts have taken into consideration the preferences of children as young as eight years of age. Naturally, the preferences of children who are older and more mature will receive greater consideration than those of children who are younger or lack maturity. As an aside, judges do not interview children regarding their maturity level and custody preferences in open court, but rather in private to avoid subjecting the child to a traumatic experience.

So, the preferences of a child may impact a custody determination, but children certainly don’t get to pick which parent they go with. Judges have to base their custody decisions on all relevant factors, and the preferences of children are only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, custody determinations are about what is best for the children. In some cases, this corresponds to their preferences, while in other cases it does not.

It is important for parents to always work with an experienced attorney to ensure their rights and interests are zealously advocated in child custody disputes and throughout the entirety of the divorce process. 

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Does my child get to pick which parent has custody? | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC