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Custody decisions: The child's input

There are many misconceptions about when a child's wishes regarding custody or living arrangements are taken into consideration. While it is normal for children to have a preference or want a change in the custody arrangement as they get older and the family situation changes, a child's preferences are not automatically given legal standing in the family courts.

Colorado law does allow for the judge to consider the child's preferences related to custody, living arrangements or parenting time. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a set age at which the child's wishes are factored in, however. According to the Colorado guidelines, the child must just be of adequate maturity and be able to express an "independent opinion." This means that the child must not be being influenced in either direction by a parent.

Consider, for example, an 8-year-old child who no longer wants to go to parenting times with the noncustodial parent. Although the child may be able to express his or her opinion logically, the judge may still decide that the child is not old enough or mature enough to fully understand the repercussions of the decision. Another example would be a 16-year-old who wants to live with the other parent but is being heavily influenced in that decision by that parent.

No matter the age or maturity of the child, it's important to understand that the child's wishes never solely determine the court's decision. The family court judge must weigh many different factors, coming to a decision on what supports the best interests of the child. A lawyer can help you understand what is likely to influence the decision.

Source: FindLaw, "Colorado Child Custody Laws," accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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