Divorce Custody Age
After a divorce, the next battle is for the custody of the child. As both parents love their child and are willing to take the responsibility, courts have established guidelines to ensure that there is adequate involvement of both the parents in the raising of their children. One parent is generally awarded physical child custody so that he/she is responsible for keeping the child with him/her. This “custodian parent” takes care of providing a stable and healthy home environs for the proper growth of the child. The other parent becomes the non-custodian parent who has visitation rights. However, the next question is: what is the criterion on which child custody is awarded to one parent while the other parent becomes the non-custodian parent with visitation rights?
Apart from factors such as: who has been the “primary caretaker” of the child, which parent can provide the benefits which would be for the best interests of the child, the age may be a valuable determining factor.
It is to be pointed that the law does not give the right to choose to a child who is 18 years old and below it. However, practices are gradually changing and according to children’s rights, some consideration for the opinion of the child is made.
Does the child’s age play a critical role?
Yes and no!
Reasons are elaborated below:
- When the child is less than twelve years old.
Different states have varying guidelines when it comes to listening to the child about which parent he/she prefers to stay with. Very small infants are generally given to the mother for custody or maybe asked to be raised in joint custody of both the parents.
Slightly older children who are not yet twelve may have their concerns voiced. It is then the discretion of the judge to ponder over the points that the child may have raised regarding his/her custody.
- When the child is a teenager
Teenage child custody is dealt with more caution. It is found that rebelling teenagers who are forced to stay with a parent that they are not willing to be with end up in great deal of trouble. A judge is never interested to raise new issues in any child custody case in a divorce and definitely asks the teenager to voice his/her decision to stay with which parent, if he/she finds the teenager potent enough to get into trouble. Also if that teenager has a very strong reason for choosing one parent over the other, the judge may award the final ruling based on this information.
If the child seems to be emotionally more mature and seem confident about making his/her own decisions, courts would often listen to them.
But judges really do not like to ask the child to decide which parent they would like to live with. Some judges may resort to private hearing of the child’s concerns where the attorneys and parents are not allowed to be present. However, their final decisions may/may not depend on the child’s statements. Moreover, judges never encourage seeking opinions of the child regarding their preference of the parent. After all, the child may end up feeling guilty about being biased to one parent when all the while he/she loves both of them equally!
Judges give a listening to the child in custody cases only when the child volunteers to give his/her opinions. The judge needs to then ensure that the child is under no pressure while voicing his/her opinion.