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View Full Version : Does a 16 year old child have a choice of custodial parent? (Florida)


VetteMan2K1
08-07-2003, 06:49 AM
My question is this:

How much weight do the Florida courts give to the opinion of a 16 year old
regarding which parent they would like to live with?

Note: this is not a new divorce action, but a situation where my son wants
to come live with me (non-custodial parent), and his Mother (custodial
parent) is dead set against this. In addition, I now live in Ohio, about
1000 miles away. My Son seems to believe that he has ultimate say in the
matter, but I am not so sure that is the case. The last thing that I want is
a bloody court battle... I told my son that the only way I would persue this
would be if it was almost a "slam dunk" deal. I cantacted one attorney, and
they wanted $500 just to talk to me... I thought this was a little
excessive, so I thought I would try here first...

Thanks!
-Jim

Mary-Anne G. Wolf
08-09-2003, 05:48 AM
Jim asks whether his 16 year old son has the right to decide which
parent he lives with. The ex-wife and son are in Florida. He is in
Ohio.

Judging by the discussion here
http://www.familylaw.org/custodyresearch.htm this is a very common
question. The most common answer appears to be that the judge can
decide whether to listen to the child. People said some states have
laws saying they have to listen to the child's opinion at age 12 or
14, but I did not find anything in the relevant Florida laws here
http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?
App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0061/ch0061.htm
or see any specific discussion about Florida and child's age for a
decision. There was something in Florida law about a Guardian ad
Litem making the child's wishes known, so you might have to go that
way.

I did find the following in Ohio law here

In determining the child's best interest for purposes of making its
allocation of the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of
the child and for purposes of resolving any issues related to the
making of that allocation, the court, in its discretion, may and, upon
the request of either party, shall interview in chambers any or all of
the involved children regarding their wishes and concerns with respect
to the allocation.

(2) If the court interviews any child pursuant to division (B)(1) of
this section, all of the following apply:

(a) The court, in its discretion, may and, upon the motion of either
parent, shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child.

(b) The court first shall determine the reasoning ability of the
child. If the court determines that the child does not have sufficient
reasoning ability to express the child's wishes and concern with
respect to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for
the care of the child, it shall not determine the child's wishes and
concerns with respect to the allocation. If the court determines that
the child has sufficient reasoning ability to express the child's
wishes or concerns with respect to the allocation, it then shall
determine whether, because of special circumstances, it would not be
in the best interest of the child to determine the child's wishes and
concerns with respect to the allocation. If the court determines that,
because of special circumstances, it would not be in the best interest
of the child to determine the child's wishes and concerns with respect
to the allocation, it shall not determine the child's wishes and
concerns with respect to the allocation and shall enter its written
findings of fact and opinion in the journal. If the court determines
that it would be in the best interests of the child to determine the
child's wishes and concerns with respect to the allocation, it shall
proceed to make that determination.

(c) The interview shall be conducted in chambers, and no person other
than the child, the child's attorney, the judge, any necessary court
personnel, and, in the judge's discretion, the attorney of each parent
shall be permitted to be present in the chambers during the interview.

(3) No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain from a child a
written or recorded statement or affidavit setting forth the child's
wishes and concerns regarding the allocation of parental rights and
responsibilities concerning the child. No court, in determining the
child's best interest for purposes of making its allocation of the
parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the child or for
purposes of resolving any issues related to the making of that
allocation, shall accept or consider a written or recorded statement
or affidavit that purports to set forth the child's wishes and
concerns regarding those matters.

I am not a lawyer, and cannot prove what I found is accurate, but that
does not sound like a "slam dunk" to me. It does sound as if your
son's ability to explain why he should live with you might matter in
the likelihood of winning. However, you might have better luck
getting custody from Ohio than Florida, since the law apparently
says the judge must listen to your son if you say so.

Hope this helps.

Mary-Anne
@--------------------

Guest
08-09-2003, 05:49 AM
On Thu, 07 Aug 2003, "VetteMan2K1" <vetteman2k1@fuse.net> wrote:

How much weight do the Florida courts give to the opinion of a 16 year old regarding which parent they would like to live with?

Substantial "weight" . . . depending on the underlying history of the
relationships and litigation and on whether there are provably
countervailing reasons not to credit or at least to discount the
child's preference (e.g., parental "messaging" a/k/a "brainwashing" or
other facts about the would-be new primary custodial parent's behavior
or relationship with the child which militate against what the child
states to be his or her wishes) although in our posting/query you do
not provide any of this information.

Note: this is not a new divorce action, . . .

. . . which is exactly why it would be surprising to learn that you
do not already know what I summarize immediately above . . .

. . . but a situation where my son wants to come live with me (non-custodial parent), and his Mother (custodial parent) is dead set against this. In addition, I now live in Ohio, about 1000 miles away . . . .

. . . which, under any number of potential scenarios you hint at,
might raise the question why you confine your question just to what
the Fla. courts likely would do.

My Son seems to believe that he has ultimate say in the matter, but I am not so sure that is the case. The last thing that I want is a bloody court battle... I told my son that the only way I would persue this would be if it was almost a "slam dunk" deal. I cantacted one attorney, and they wanted $500 just to talk to me... I thought this was a little excessive, so I thought I would try here first...

You hint that you have well-founded reason to believe that your son's
mother would begin then actually pursue "a bloody court battle" if
your son were to move to and reside mostly in Ohio, but, other than
also to hint (yet: not explicitly to say) that there has already been
a not "new" history of litigation between you and your former wife,
you do not actually provide ANY of the underlying background facts
which every even just minimally competent lawyer would need to
evaluate to be able intelligently to advise you.

That you consider spending $500 to obtain well-informed (and,
presumably, experience-based) professional advice to be "excessive" is
an arguably troubing (self)indictment of your degree of practicality
(not to dwell on level of affection for and concern about your son)
as, meanwhile, you have not said anything in your posting about WHY he
wants to reside primarily with you or about what you and he and his
mother have discussed about this subject or about visitation
corollaries or about whether, if your son were to move to Ohio and she
were to try to resist to the point of litigation, what his mother
would (realistically? incredibly? provably?) contend is unlawful about
such a move.

Thanks!

Daniel R. Reitman
08-11-2003, 11:25 AM
On Sat, 09 Aug 2003 08:49:00 -0400, nospam@isp.com wrote:

. . . .. . . .
. . . but a situation where my son wants to come live with me (non-custodial parent), and his Mother (custodial parent) is dead set against this. In addition, I now live in Ohio, about 1000 miles away . . . .
. . . which, under any number of potential scenarios you hint at,might raise the question why you confine your question just to whatthe Fla. courts likely would do.
. . . .. . . .

In child custody cases, once one state gets jurisdiction, it's hard to
get another state to take over without the first state's court's
consent. Basically, both parents and the child have to leave the
state or the court has to make a finding that it is no longer a
convenient forum.

That said, if this were Oregon, and the noncustodial parent's move out
of the 60 mile radius had been before the decree, or subsequently
approved by the other parent or the court, I'd say that there would be
a very good chance that the court would find a substantial change of
circumstances and consider the application very seriously.

Daniel Reitman

Espar R=?ISO-8859-1?B?/A==?=ggli
08-20-2003, 10:43 AM
On 11/08/03 19:25, in article 9jnfjvsb1ebi526ima4tfh1q9kd1qtegtr@4ax.com,
"Daniel R. Reitman" <dreitman@spiritone.com> wrote:
In child custody cases, once one state gets jurisdiction, it's hard to get another state to take over without the first state's court's consent. Basically, both parents and the child have to leave the state or the court has to make a finding that it is no longer a convenient forum.
Hey, this kid is 16. No court can enforce its will against this kid, except
by putting him in jail.

Unfortunately, they CAN enforce it against the parent who provides
accommodation to the kid in contravention of the court's wishes. Which leads
to a conundrum: the absolute refusal of the 16-year-old to return to
Florida, with the alternative being on the street.

Intervention by a social worker might be determine the outcome. As will the
determination of the kid, face to face with a family court judge. As always,
the "best interests of the child" rules.

I knew one case where the kid married to avoid going back. End of story: kid
became emancipated. (Emancipation being another possibility here.)

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