When you and your spouse go through a divorce, your priority is making sure that your children stay happy and healthy. You want them to be comfortable with the changes, and you’re both there to help them adjust to their new lives in two homes and in different circumstances.
As parents focused on your children’s best interests, one of the questions you might have is if you should allow your children to play a role in the custody case. Should they get the opportunity to help create a custody plan or give their preferences on who to live with?
Discussing parenting time? Ask your older children to chat
When you have younger children, it’s usually better to make decisions for them and to help them adjust to what works best for you and your ex-spouse in terms of parenting time decisions.
When your children are old enough to understand what’s going on and to have preferences on where they live or who they see and when, that’s when it’s time to include them in a conversation about their custody preferences.
Normally, by the time your child is 7 to 10 years old, they’ll start to have preferences. They might indicate that they want to see their mom or dad more often or that they prefer one house over the other. In Arizona, judges allow children to state their opinion in court once they’re old enough to “form an intelligent preference.”
Since there is no specific age at which your child technically gets a say, you should consider asking them their preferences once they’re old enough to start voicing them. You don’t necessarily have to do what they ask, but you should consider their preferences as you build your parenting plan.
Children may feel out of control, but having a choice can help
Many children feel that they have no control over what’s happening. If you have an opportunity to allow them to take back some control and to make a decision, even if it’s over something minor, then that may help them adjust to your divorce. Consider that, especially if you have older children.