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Can your child choose which parent gets custody?

The complexities of divorce in Michigan courts are nothing to be sneezed at, between working out division of assets, spousal support, child custody and many other factors. But those factors can be complicated further by custody disputes between you and your spouse. So what happens when your child adds another layer of complexity by weighing in on his or her preference? Can you child choose which parent he or she prefers to have custody?

In some cases, yes. The Supreme Court of Michigan's Custody Guidelines outline what is known as "reasonable preference" - that is, a child's right and capability to express a preference for which parent they wish to live with. While children under the age of 18 cannot legally choose their own independent residence, if the judge in the custody hearing feels that your child is capable of expressing a reasonable and sound preference, the judge may take it into consideration when awarding primary or sole custody.

Many factors can impact whether or not your child's preference is considered reasonable. For instance, if your child has recently spent time with one parent and expresses a preference for that parent, the judge may consider the decision influenced by the recent proximity and time spent. Judges also consider the child's age, maturity level and history of expressing reasonable preferences when determining if they are capable of deciding where they wish to live. The child's preference, however, is usually not the sole deciding factor and can only influence the judge's decision rather than wholly deciding the matter.

This is an informational post that should not be misconstrued as legal counsel.

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