Can A Minor Choose Which Parent to Live With In Arizona?
There are numbers of reasons why the state of Arizona generally does not allow a minor child to choose which parent they will live with.
First of all, children may change their minds about which parent they prefer. The child’s preference of which parent they like better is often not based on strong or valid reasons. The child may have a small argument with one of the parents, and decide that the other one is better.
Adolescents mainly change their minds for many things. If the child is permitted to pick and choose which parent they liked better, then custody would be changing on a monthly basis. Such situations will not work well in real life, since both parents and children need stability in their lives.
Another reason why the law won’t permit the child to chose a parent they’d live with is because it puts huge pressure on the child. This isn’t a simple decision for a young child, and many children aren’t capable of making this choice.
There are cases where the parents put pressure, threaten or bribe their children to make the choice (this happens n if they know there is an option for the child to decide).
The Court Will Decide
Finally, the court will want to hear the child’s opinion before they make the decision about custody. This is one of the factors that the court will consider before bringing the decision. So, the child has a voice, but they are not yet capable of making the choice.
There are several ways for the judge to ask the child for their opinion such as ordering a therapist to conduct a custody evaluation which would include a few interviews between the child and the therapist assigned to the case. The therapist is required to write a report that includes a summary of all the things the child said and then they will give it to the judge.
There are cases where the Arizona state law allows the judge to address directly the child in private chambers where the child won’t be put under pressure by the parents.
In the end, the judge has the option of selecting an attorney to represent only the child. The appointed attorney would interview the child and advocate the child’s position just as the lawyers for the parents representing and speaking on their behalf.
The child’s age is very important as well. There is no precise age at which the child’s opinion is important when it comes to picking which parent they will stay with. It’s far easier for a teenager to express themselves clearly because of their maturity and life experience, compared to a child who is eight or nine years old, for example.
If you’re going through a divorce and the custody is a challenge, make sure you speak with a skilled attorney. If you live in Arizona, MY AZ Legal Team is here to help you with every question you have and represent you in court. Call our office and get your free case review.