When marriages end, who gets to spend more time with the kids after the divorce will always be an issue. With the help ofdivorce lawyers, parents who separate must establish a custody and coparenting plan with a visitation schedule. Usually, parents want an equal division of time with their kids. Children also have feelings about the divorce and the visitation schedule. But do they get to have a say on where they go and when? It depends. They must go through a certain process.
When weighing a child’s input regarding their custody and visitation schedule, the court takes several factors into consideration. Age is one of the most prominent factors. For example, two siblings, teenagers aged 16 and 14, were allowed to relocate to Las Vegas by the New York State appellate court, although the mother, who lives in New York, was against it. One of the reasons the court cited for its decision was the children’s wishes. This is because, if the child is below 18, the court will more likely consider where the child wants to livethe closer she or he is to age 18. Usually, judges encourage time with each parent is they share custody and do not live far apart.
The court also considers if the child was influenced or pressured by the favored parent into his or her custody and visitation wishes. Oftentimes, one parent believes that the child’s view has been influenced by the other parent’s bias, although it is difficult to prove. Sometimes, a parent vilifies the other by telling their children things to win them over to her or his side, causing them to experience Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
Substantial clinical or empirical evidence isstill being gatheredto support PAS. However, courts are already extremely wary of this type of alienating behavior.
Aside from parental alienation, the child may also have other reasons for wanting to be with one parent more than the other. Whatever the reason is, research suggests that it isextremely difficult to determineif a child turned against a parent due to the other’s influence.
When parents seek intervention to resolve their custody and coparenting plan, the judge may appoint an Attorney for the child to advocate for the children’s preferences regarding custody. To conduct a custody evaluation, the judge may also appoint a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist to assess each family member, and find out the underlying circumstances for the child’s preferences.
Generally, judges accept the findings of the forensic report. Since parental alienation is a significant factor in custody decision, the court does not usually honor children’s wishes if the report states that their preferences are caused by parental alienation.
Children go through a divorce along with their parents. They are adjusting to the falling apart of an intact family and they may need to leave or lose what has been their home. Their parents’ divorce affects their young lives, and having a say in the custody and visitation plan allows them a morsel of control in the situation. But even though they are parting ways, both parents should still guide and support their children, and include the kids when deciding on their custody and visitation schedule.