When getting divorced and deciding what to do about child custody, most parents naturally think about what they would like the custody arrangement to be. But how much say does your child actually have? After all, you’re discussing where they are going to live. Do they get to make that choice on their own?
Generally, the answer is no. Some children, if they’re old enough, can express their desires. They get a say in court. But, even then, they do not get to make the decision independently. It’s just one thing that the court is going to take into account along with everything else.
For very young children, this typically means they have no say at all. Children who may be allowed to at least tell the court what they want are generally middle school- or high school-aged children. At this point in life, gender roles may play into it; for instance, a son may want to spend more time with his father than his mother, or a daughter may want to spend more time with her mother. But this is not always the case, so each situation must be evaluated independently.
As a parent, though, don’t worry about children getting to make a choice on their own about something that is so important to you. Your opinions and needs will also be considered. The court does want to find a solution that works for your whole family and gives you all the best possible outcome — while prioritizing the child’s best interests.
If you’re working through this process now, be sure you know what options you have.