Does a Child’s Preference Matter in Custody Cases?
When it comes to divorce and child custody issues, everyone has their own opinion. That includes the children who are involved. While parents will have their own beliefs about what is best for the child, it is the judge who ultimately makes the decision. In some states, judges are required to at least consider the preferences of the children when making that decision.
Custody Decisions in Alabama
If the parents in a divorce are unable to agree on custody, then a judge must intervene and determine what is in the best interests of the child. In Alabama, the judge will consider both parents and determine what is in the child’s best interests, including the child’s safety and well-being. There are several factors that Alabama judges are required to consider:
- the child’s age and sex
- the child’s emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs
- each parent’s home environment
- each parent’s age, character, and stability
- each parent’s mental and physical health
- each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs
- the child’s relationship with each parent
- the child’s relationship with siblings
- the effect on a child of changing an existing custodial arrangement
- expert’s reports and recommendations
- each child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity, and
- any other factors relevant to custody.
None of these factors is more important than any other. Judges in Alabama have very broad discretion in making custody decisions.
When Does the Judge Consider a Child’s Preference Regarding Custody?
In Alabama, as in many other courts, the judge will consider the child’s preference if the child is mature enough to voice an intelligent opinion. There is no specific age, however. Instead, the judge will look at each situation individually and determine whether the preference is reasonable based on the reasons the child gives for the preference. While the child’s preference is not controlling, in most cases it is weighed heavily in the scheme of things. Regardless, the judge will not comply with a child’s preference if it is not in the best interests of the child.
If you have questions regarding child custody or any other family law matters, please contact The Law Office of Brad J. Latta either online or by calling (205) 739-2422.