While most children would likely prefer to stay out of any conflict regarding child custody and parenting time, there are certainly times where a child expresses a strong desire regarding the parenting time arrangement.

In Missouri, the court is required to consider as a factor in determining child custody the “unobstructed input of a child, free of coercion and manipulation, as to the child’s custodial arrangement.” This may be done through appointment of a Guardian ad Litem for the child, or in some cases, the Judge may interview the child in chambers without the parents present. In Kansas, the court is directed to consider all relevant factors, which include “the desires of a child of sufficient age and maturity as to the child’s custody or residency.”

While each state accords a different weight to a child’s opinion when ruling on a custody matter, courts will generally look to the child’s age and maturity level to determine what weight, if any, is proper to assign to their opinion. Typically, judges will not consider the opinions of a very young child. However, just because a child is older does not mean that the court will necessarily defer to the desires of the child. A common myth is that there is a magical age at which a child gets to decide where he or she lives, but there is no such age in Missouri or Kansas until the child reaches adulthood at eighteen.

Ultimately, a child’s opinion merely aids the court in deciding what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court is in no way bound to consider a child’s opinion, especially if it contradicts other evidence presented in the case.

To determine the most appropriate way to address your child’s desires as to custody, you should consult with an experienced family lawyer to determine the best option for moving forward.

The choice of a lawyer is an important one and should not be based solely on advertisements.