Determining how to handle child custody is one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce involving minor children. Neither parent wants to sacrifice time with the children, especially when those children are too young to fully understand that their parents are separating. Usually it is best to keep children out of discussions involving the divorce or custody arrangements. No child wants to feel as though he or she is being placed in the middle of the parents’ disputes, but when a child is older and parents are not sure what that child really wants, sometimes he or she may need to participate in custody-related conversations. Knowing why you should involve your children in certain child custody discussions can help you understand when to ask your children about their custody or visitation preferences.
The Child’s Age
An older child may have more opinions regarding who he or she lives with or where he or she resides than a younger child. If you have children who are 12 or 13, it is generally a good idea to ask them how they feel about living with you versus their other parent. Children who are 15 or older usually have strong opinions regarding where they live, especially if they have grown attached to friends at a school or in a neighborhood. Typically, children who are closer to the age of majority can clearly explain which parent they want to live with and provide reasons that support their decision.
It is normal and natural for one or both parents to believe that their child has a preference for them. A parent may take for granted that their children want to live with them and never ask the children their opinion. Even though the children love both parents equally, they may feel more comfortable living in a certain location or with a specific parent. Involving your children in certain custody or visitation discussions will help make you aware of any biases that are preventing you from seeing things from an alternate point of view.
The Court May Ask
Depending on how long custody has been an unresolved issue, the court may ask your children for their opinions regarding which parent has primary physical custody. A judge may ask your children directly or encourage you and your spouse to work with a mediator. The mediator or child development specialist will work with you and the court to determine how your children feel about custody. Remember, the court’s primary concern is the best interest of your children.
Talk to an Attorney
Questions concerning the custody of your children are never easy to answer. If you and your spouse are having a difficult time coming to an agreement, it might be time to talk to a child custody and visitation attorney. An attorney can protect your interests while acting as an advocate for you child. The team at Vayman & Teitelbaum know that obtaining custody of your children is one of the most important aspects of your divorce or separation. We work with you to establish a court ordered custody agreement that you are happy with. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our Atlanta, Georgia offices so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice you need.