Does a Child Have a Say Over Their Custody Agreement?
10 January 2023IN: Child Custody
Divorce is complex, especially when children are involved. Who gets custody? Will it be you or your spouse, or both? Who will decide?
Ideally, you and the other parent will make this decision on your own. But if you cannot decide on child custody, then your case will go to court. The judge will hear your case and make a decision. But that decision may include your child’s wishes.
That’s right – under Tennessee law, children of a certain age can make their wishes known to a judge, who must consider them when deciding custody. Not all states operate this way, so it’s important that, as a parent, you understand this. Tennessee considers the wishes of an older child when determining custody.
Best Interests of the Child
Under Tenn Code § 36-6-106, child custody in Tennessee is based on the best interests of the child. There are many factors involved – not just one or two – that determine what constitutes the best interests of the child.
Besides the wishes of the child, the best interest of the child under Tennessee law includes factors such as:
- The amount of caretaking responsibilities performed by each parent
- The bond the child has with each parent
- How the child interacts with siblings and other family members
- The child’s emotional and developmental needs
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The moral, physical, mental, and emotional fitness of each parent
- Each parent’s work schedule and how that will affect parental responsibilities
- Any history of domestic violence or emotional abuse
Another factor is the reasonable preference of the child. Under Tennessee law, the court may hear the parental preferences of a child who is 12 years of age or over. While younger children can also make their wishes known, the court does not have to consider their preference.
While the court must take the child’s wishes seriously, these wishes do not control the outcome of the case. The judge can still rule as they see fit because there are many other factors involved besides a child’s preference. What this means is that if the child wishes to be with their mother, for example, then they may still end up with their father if the judge thinks that’s the best choice.
Tennessee is one of the most lenient states in this regard. Thirty-three states allow for child preference if the child is “of sufficient age and capacity.” However, for most states, that sufficient age is 14. Tennessee is just one of a few states that allow children as young as 12 to make their preferences known.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Lawyer Today
Child custody can be a complicated matter, and as a parent, you should know that your child might have a say in the matter.
A Murfreesboro child custody lawyer from The Law Office of David L. Scott can help you resolve issues and make the right decisions. To schedule a consultation, call (615) 896-7656 or fill out the online form.