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When Can a Child Choose Who to Live with in a Florida Child Custody Case?


Getting divorced is a difficult decision on its own. However, if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse have minor children, your divorce case can get even more complicated as you will have to make major decisions regarding custody.

But how old does your child have to be to be able to choose who he or she wants to live with? What does Florida family law say about a child’s expressed desire to live with one particular parent?

Do Florida Courts Consider a Child’s Expressed Desire to Live with One Parent?

It is true that Florida courts can consider a child’s desire to live with one parent over the other when establishing a parenting plan. However, there are many other considerations that come into play, and the child’s expressed desire alone is not enough to award sole parental responsibility to either parent.

In Florida, courts presume that a shared parenting plan, in which both parents share physical and legal custody, is in the child’s best interest. Under the Florida Statutes Section 61.13, every child must have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents,” not to mention that the statute also encourages both parents to share parental responsibilities and rights.

One parent showing that continued contact with the other parent would not be in the child’s best interest or would endanger the child is the only thing that can overcome the presumption.

Often, a parent can prove that having a shared parenting plan would be detrimental to the child by showing evidence of the other parent’s domestic violence, child abuse, criminal history, or other factors.

Thus, a child’s expressed desire to live with one parent over the other is often not sufficient to overcome the presumption that a shared parenting plan is best for the child. It can be difficult to overcome the presumption, which is why it is advised to consult with an experienced child custody attorney in Florida.

The Child’s Best Interest and Preference to Live with Either Parent

Florida courts rely on the child’s best interest when establishing a parenting plan, also known as child custody. Therefore, the court must consider a wide variety of factors to determine what would be in the child’s best interest.

Florida law lists more than 20 different factors that must be considered by courts when developing a parenting plan. One of the factors is “the reasonable preference of the child” to live with either parent. However, the court must ensure that the child is “of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience” to express a desire before taking the child’s preference into account.

In other words, the court will consider a multitude of factors, such as the child’s age, emotional capacity, and intelligence, when evaluating the reasonableness of the child’s expressed desire. Also, the court will consider the possibility of parental pressure to express a desire to live with one parent.

Often, the judge is required to talk with a child privately in order to evaluate the reasonable nature of the child’s preference. However, many courts choose to focus on other factors to determine a child’s best interest and fail to take the child’s preference into account.

If your child expressed a desire to live with you or you are worried that the other parent may put pressure on your child to make a statement that they want to live with them, do not hesitate to contact an Orlando family attorney. Schedule a consultation with our attorneys at Donna Hung Law Group by calling at 407-999-0099.

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