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How much say do children get in a divorce?

A big part of divorce involves deciding how custody of children gets split between the two parents. In 2015 alone, there were 29,748 divorces filed in the state of Michigan. Many of those had children involved, and as a result, they were a lot more complicated.

While the parents will make cases for why they should receive majority or sole custody, it is important to remember that the children also get a say. There are various circumstances when a court would find it prudent to ask a child his or her opinion.

How old must the child be?

In Michigan, a child who is 17 years or older can decide which parent to live with if he or she still lives at home. In these instances, the parents do not really get to voice an opinion because the child is considered an adult and can make independent decisions.

A judge may interview children as young as nine to get their opinions on custody. There have also been cases where children as young as six have voiced a preference.

What do courts consider?

Judges will not weigh children’s opinions if they simply want to live with one parent because that person is more lenient or more fun. However, a judge will weigh the opinion if the child offers pertinent information, such as which parent is more attentive when it comes to the health care-related issues. 

Will the child testify in court?

A majority of the time, judges will not allow children to take the stand. This is done in most court cases because sitting on the stand can be psychologically stressful. Interviews with children will typically take place one-on-one between the judge and child. In these interviews, even the attorneys are not allowed to be there.

Naturally, if children are not comfortable speaking to judges or attorneys, then they will not be forced to offer a preference. Everyone involved simply wants to make sure to consider the well-being of any minors involved.  

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