If you and your spouse are separating with the intention of filing for divorce, you likely have many questions about child custody arrangements. Your child may have expressed a strong preference for living with one parent or the other.
Before you let hurt feelings dictate your response, consider what is best for the child in this situation. Would it truly be better for the child to live with the preferred parent for most of the time?
Do children have a say in their own custody arrangements?
A judge will consider both parents’ mental health, relationship to the child in question and the child’s wishes in making custody arrangements. Generally, opinions and feelings of children over the age of 12 hold more sway in court as they are able to make more mature decisions. Your child’s maturity level, as well as his or her wishes, are carefully considered throughout the process. It is rare that a child will have to testify in court.
Can a child refuse visitation with one parent altogether?
The state of Washington expects children to comply with the visitation orders unless there is abuse or suspected abuse. Teenagers can refuse visitation once they turn 18 or are legally emancipated or if the visitation orders change.
Your child’s relationship with both you and your spouse will change over time. If at all possible, it is important to retain contact with both parents in a shared custody arrangement even if the child expresses a preference for living predominately with one parent over the other.