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A Child's Preference in Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time Proceedings

A Child's Preference in Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time Proceedings

Arizona Child Custody Lawyer

If you find yourself in the middle of a contested legal decision making and parenting time case, you aren’t alone. This is one of the most challenging experiences you will face as parents who have decided to separate or divorce. Take a moment in the midst of your panic and confusion to consider the fact that your children are far less equipped to handle the emotional stress (and sometimes trauma) that can be involved in these types of disputes. In many divorce cases, the first instinct will be to protect your children; to attempt to shelter them from the issues being so contentiously discussed. But in some cases, the court could decide to consider a child’s preference for one parent over the other in terms of legal decision making and parenting time.

The question becomes, when does a family law judge take children’s custodial wishes into account and how do they handle the situation? When determining legal decision making and parenting time for children, it is common for separating or divorcing parents to have different opinions regarding what would be in the child’s best interest. If the child has his or her own opinion on the matter and the judge feels it is appropriate, the court can consider the child’s preference prior to making a decision.

Firstly, parents who are separating or divorcing have the ability to reach an agreement regarding legal decision making and parenting time on their own. If the parents cannot agree on the parenting arrangement for their child or children, the court makes the decision on their behalf. In this instance, a number of factors are taken into consideration. Some of these factors include:

  • Relationships between parent and child (past, present and future)
  • Child’s relationship with parents, siblings and others who could affect the child’s best interest
  • Child’s adjustment to home, community, school, etc.
  • Mental and physical health of both the parents and the child/children
  • The likelihood that each parent will encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The occurrence of domestic violence or abuse by either parent
  • Any false reports made or intentional misleading of the court to gain advantage
  • The wishes of the child (also considering age and maturity)
  • Any other factors that are relevant to the child’s best interest and their living arrangements

Upon rendering judgment, the judge will state the factors that played a part in the decision. In Arizona, the court will consider the child’s opinion on this matter when the child is “of sufficient age to form an intelligent preference.” There is no specific age stated in Arizona law – judges make the call on a case-by-case basis. But the courts have been known to consider the preference of children regarding legal decision making and parenting time as young as seven years old. If it is deemed that the child’s preference is intelligently made, the court must consider the opinion, but the court does not have to follow the child’s preference if it is not in the child’s best interest. The preference of the child does not outweigh other factors that are considered when coming to a decision regarding legal decision making and parenting time in the Arizona family court.

If you have any other questions regarding factors used to determine legal decision making and parenting time in the Arizona family court, please get in touch with Arizona Family Law Attorneys. We are ready to assist you with your divorce mediation or litigation needs.
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