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Does My Child’s Opinion Matter In Determining Custody?

Most parents going through the difficult process of divorce recognize that the impact of their decision to separate falls heaviest on their children. Kids don’t make the choice to end their parents’ relationship and they may have their own opinions about what happens to them next, who they want to live with, and how much time they want to spend with one parent or the other. Amidst the discussions between the parents, they may be wondering if the children’s wishes are a factor in a court’s decision as to custody.

In Mississippi, as in most states, the welfare and best interest of the child is the court’s primary concern when making a determination as to where the child will live after a divorce. In determining what is in the best interests of the child, a court will consider the wishes of a child who is 12 years of age or older so long as:

  • each parent is fit to have custody of the child
  • each parent can adequately provide for the child’s care and maintenance, and
  • it is in the child’s best interest to select the parent he or she prefers.

Even if these criteria are met, that does not mean that what the child says goes, however. The ultimate decision as to custody and what is in the child’s best interests remains with the judge. If the judge believes that the child’s preference will not serve his or her best interests, the judge can overrule the child.

Recognizing that placing a child in the position of having to choose a parent while sitting on a witness stand in front of both parents could be traumatic to say the least, most Mississippi judges will interview the child in their chambers without their parents present, though attorneys may sometimes be allowed. Alternatively, the child can file a document with the court called a “preference statement” that sets forth the child’s opinion on custody.

Regardless of how the child makes his or her preferences known, the court will be on the lookout for any intimidation or undue influence by either parent that may be call into question the sincerity of the child’s stated opinions.

Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C.: Biloxi Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

If you have questions about child custody or related issues, call the experienced and compassionate family law attorneys at Rushing & Guice at (228) 374-2313 or fill out our online form to arrange for a free, limited initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you, and look forward to the opportunity to serve as your attorneys.

This website has been prepared by Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.