In almost every custody case in which the children are at the point that they can talk, we get the inevitable question: At what age is it in Alabama that children can choose who they want to live with? Whether it is a five year old who doesn’t like to go to daddy’s because he doesn’t like to play pretty princess or a teen boy who can’t stand that his mother still babies him especially when it’s in front of his football buddies, the question is still asked by the clients with hopeful abandon and the pressure is immediately on the child or “children.” Here are a few factors to remember when you’re depending on your child’s opinion to win your custody case:
- A child’s opinion on where they should live is but one of many factors the judge uses to decide. A judge hears tons of information in custody trials. The amount of mudslinging in the courtroom on the day of trial and each hearing leading up to it dirties everyone’s reputation in the meantime. Seeing through all the lies to get to the truth is a difficult task. Also, the amount of manipulation going on at home in the shadows when the watchful eye isn’t policing the parents is tremendous. Children are sensitive to this manipulation, mudslinging, and to bribery. A child’s opinion could truthfully be muddied up by the mudslinging and manipulation. Alliteration aside, if the child is saying that they want to live with momma, but daddy has proven that momma is essentially mommy dearest on the weekends scaring the child into making the right decision for fear of wire hangers, there’s a good chance the judge will disregard the child’s decision.
- A lot depends on the child’s age and maturity. The short answer to the question is that there is no age that a child can make the decision. There are children who are wise beyond their age. You could meet a seven year old going on thirty who has essentially been raising himself his entire life, or a teenager that has wrecked ten cars, only eats cheerios, and decides to live with one parent over the other simply because he wasn’t allowed to date Kandi Kane and smoke weed with her in the hot-tub outside (But, Ma! Timmy gets to do it!!!). Everything is on a case by case basis, and if your child is the latter, their testimony will have very little bearing on the court regardless of him being sixteen or older.
- Testifying for a child is hard. If you’re relying on your child to win your case for you, you may come up short. See our last blog here to learn about the risks of a child testifying for you.
In short, make sure you discuss some ideas with your lawyer on how to prove your custody case. You shouldn’t put all the pressure on the little ones. Give us a call at 205-582-2832 to discuss your custody case.