Understanding the Role of a Child’s Preference
A child’s best interests will always be the primary factor when awarding custody. One of the other factors is the wishes of the child involved in the case. Do children have a say in deciding which parent they will end up living with?
Here is what you should know about when children can have a say in their residence in Missouri.
The Specifics of the Role
Missouri law does not state a specific age at which a child’s preferences will be considered in determining custody. It’s common for judges to allow children of at least 10 years old to express their preferences, but some children as young as 8 have shared their desire.
It’s important to know that a child’s preference is given heavier consideration if their answer is sincere in its reasoning. A child, for example, that wishes to stay with one parent because of their more lax standards regarding social life may not have as solid a reason as a child who wishes to stay with one parent because of the strength of their relationship and the lessons they have learned from them.
A child’s wishes, however, are not the only determining factor when awarding custody in Missouri. In fact, a judge may examine the other custody factors alongside the child’s wishes and may ultimately make a determination that goes against a child’s personal preferences.
Avoiding Parental Alienation
It can be tempting for parents to try and use this factor to their advantage by playing to a child’s emotions and attempting to make the child feel alienated from the other parent. Courts, however, have caught on to these behaviors and are careful to determine if a parent has genuine evidence to back up the child’s claim or if they have spoken so poorly of the other parent to the point where the child feels manipulated.
Working with a Custody Attorney
If your child has expressed their preference about where they want to live, either with you or the other parent, it’s important to consult with a custody attorney who can help you determine how to move forward. At Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices, we understand how sensitive these issues can be, which is why we will work to meet your needs throughout each step of the process.
To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call us at (573) 279-1349 or visit us online.