Child custody following a divorce is a tricky proposition in the best circumstances. You and your ex, and possibly the court, spend all this time hammering out the details of a parenting plan. That’s what lays out custody, visitation, and all the rest. This presents a specific, detailed plan.
But what about the kids? What about their wishes in all of this? Do they get a say in visitation or where they live? At what age does their input matter? Are there extenuating circumstances? These questions take an already complicated matter and make it even more complex.
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, regularly appears on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he addresses family law questions from listeners. On one recent episode, a caller posed this question. Her daughter no longer wants to spend weekends with her father, despite the parenting plan. Does she have a choice in the matter?
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Listen to the conversation about visitation below:
Caller: “My 12-year-old daughter has informed me she no longer wants visitation with her dad on holidays and weekends. He lives in [another part of the state], she’d prefer to just be here with her friends during the weekends. At what age can she legally choose to no longer visit her father and go against the plans we have in place because of our parenting plan?”
Rick: “Well I’ll ask everybody this out here listening, do you always let their 12-year-old do what they prefer? And that’s the way the law looks at it as well. There’s really no age in particular other than 18. That’s when someone is ‘off the chart’ because they’re no longer a child.”
Danny: “What about a 16-year-old girl? Does she have a say?”
Rick: “Still doesn’t. There is no legal say in that. Then the question becomes, ‘What’s the underlying factor?’ So let’s say the 16-year-old is now going to a counselor and the counselor is concerned because of some issue. Maybe it’s verbal abuse or something like that.
“If there’s something tangible behind it and you’ve got third party support then it certainly can be brought in front of the court as an issue. But if it’s just a matter of preference, you can imagine the teenage hormones going through, and it’s, ‘Well I don’t want to go see dad anymore, I’m mad at him.’ That’s not good enough.”
Danny: “He has a right [to visitation]. But if there were a problem, you’re lawyer would know it, you’d know it, your kid would know it, and you’d just have to be vocal about it. But if there’s no problem, the kid doesn’t really get a say.”
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