Do Kids Get a Say in Child Custody Battles?

Generally, the courts prefer to keep children out of custody battles. However, in some cases, the court may want to hear what the minor children’s preferences are, especially if it is equally in the best interests of the children to be with either parent. Divorce is already hard on the children regardless of age, as many believe that it is their fault their parents are getting divorced. To complicate matters, some families use the children against the other parent, in effect, alienating one of the parents from the children.

Standing Temporary Domestic Relations Order

Because some couples try to alienate the children against one or both spouses, the court issues a standing temporary domestic relations order whenever a person files for divorce and that person has children. The order dictates that neither spouse may drag the minor children into their battles, whether they are custody battles, financial battles or otherwise.

If the court hears of one or both parents pulling their children into these battles or otherwise trying to alienate the children against the other parent, the court may impose sanctions against the parent that is not adhering to the order.

The Children’s Choice

While both parents are required to sign a parenting plan, sometimes it doesn’t happen. In some cases, both parents may file a parenting plan because one doesn’t agree with the other about the amount of time the children spend with either parent. In this case, the mother may file a parenting plan and the father may file a separate parenting plan. Thus, the court knows that it may have to decide on time sharing unless the parties are able to come to an agreement during mediation.

In some cases, it is pertinent for the court to ask the minor children which parent they prefer to live with. In those cases, pursuant to Florida Statutes, the court meets with the children to ensure they understand the situation, have the intelligence to understand the situation and the experience to make that choice for themselves. In most cases, the court will speak to minor children in camera, which means alone in the Judge’s chambers, so that the children will not feel obligated to give a specific opinion because the parents are listening.

It is rare that a court will ask a child his or her preference, but in some cases, it may be necessary, especially if the court finds that both parents have equally abhorrent behavior toward each other, or if both parents are model parents and agree on everything except custody.

The Best Interests of the Children

Because the court is only interested in the bests interests of the children, it will create a schedule that best suits the children, preferably, time sharing with both parents. However, if a parent shows that he or she is interfering or will interfere with the other parent’s time sharing, the court will add a time-sharing schedule, giving one parent more time than the other.

Additionally, if it is found that one parent is not fit to parent the children, the court may order supervised visitation with the parent. This may happen if the parent abuses substances or is abusive to the other parent and/or the children. In this case, the court will not ask the children which parent they prefer to be with.

If the court finds that both parents want to see the children and the only reason they cannot come to an agreement is that they cannot come up with a fair schedule, the court will create a time-sharing schedule.

Contact Yardley Law

If you are ready to file for divorce or have been served with divorce, contact Yardley Law to learn of your rights. If you are going through a divorce and are trying to do it without the help of an attorney but find yourself in a bitter custody battle, you should contact an experienced family law attorney, such as the family law attorneys at Yardley Law, who are well-versed in handling the issues surrounding time sharing.

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