If you are a parent, you undoubtedly recognized early that your son or daughter has some strong opinions about what he or she likes and dislikes. While it may be beneficial to allow your child to make some decisions, you often have to override these decisions to protect him or her.
Ending your marriage is likely to bring up a number of issues, including custody of your child. Florida law, of course, does not use the term, “custody.” Instead, it contemplates the development of parenting plans that address where the child lives and other issues. When developing your parenting plan, you may wonder if your child’s opinion matters.
How mature is your child?
In some states, there is a defined age where children are able to have a say in custody determinations. With parenting plans in Florida, though, there is no bright-line rule. Instead, courts tend to consider the overall maturity of the child.
When determining if your son or daughter is mature enough to have influence over the parenting plan, a judge may evaluate the following:
- The child’s intelligence
- The child’s ability to understand the implications of his or her decisions
- The child’s experience with each parent
How do courts know what your child wants?
If your child is mature enough to weigh in on the parenting plan, the court is likely to want to know his or her opinion. Neither you nor your soon-to-be ex-spouse can force your child to testify, though. Therefore, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem or ask a mental health professional to evaluate your son or daughter.
Ultimately, because your child’s opinion may influence your parenting plan, it may be beneficial to gauge his or her thoughts in the lead-up to your divorce.