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Should parents talk to children before deciding custody?

One of the toughest things to determine in a divorce is child custody. Both parents will likely want some time with the children, but many parents grapple with the issue of how much input the children should have in the decision process. 

When determining child custody, the court will only consider the child’s preference once he or she reaches the age of 10. This is the age of discretion in the state, but it is merely one of many factors a court will regard.

Often, experts recommend that parents work through many issues of divorce through mediation. Some people choose to bring the children to these meetings to learn if they have a preference regarding custody arrangements. 

Parents should discuss child’s input first

Before asking children who they would want to live with most of the time, both parents should discuss among themselves how to use any input. This takes into account many factors, including the child’s age. When children are younger than 10, they may not be able to form rational opinions. Even when they are older than 10, parents need to remain wary of how to apply the suggestions. Giving the children everything they want may result in a collapse in the family hierarchy where the children have ultimate say. 

Parents should allow child to speak to someone neutral

Once parents decide to ask for a child’s input, they should make sure a neutral third party is present. It can feel extremely daunting for a child to make such a hefty decision when only the parents are around. With a mediator or therapist present, children have someone outside of the family to talk to. During this meeting, it will be vital to clarify to children that they may not get everything they want. This may help curtail any displeasure at the final outcome.