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Family Law Disputes

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Family Law Disputes
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Can a child’s wishes affect custody proceedings in Utah?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce means accepting instability because predicting exactly what will happen in the near future is all but impossible. Even those who have prenuptial agreements likely still have certain details they will need to work out with their spouses, especially if they have minor children.

Most parents worry about losing time with their children and what divorce will mean for their relationship with their kids. Especially if there have been conflicts between parent and child in recent months, a parent may worry that their children won’t want to see them. Yet, it’s important to understand that parents have rights, even if a child expresses their preferences for where they want to be and when.

Older children’s opinions can influence a custody order

A Utah family law judge trying to settle disputes about how parents will share time with their children and responsibility for them has to consider many factors. The ability of each parent to care for the children and the relationship that they have with them is one consideration. So is the age of the children, the living circumstances of the parents and even the health of family members.

A judge can also consider the preferences of the children in the family if they are 14 years of age or older. However, children do not get to decide for themselves where they will live or whether they spend time with one of their parents. Unless there are unusual circumstances, like a documented history of severe substance abuse, judges will generally want to keep both parents actively involved with the children. Teenagers will need to regularly see both of their parents. The parent with more time with the children will need to encourage the children to spend time with the other parents even if they claim they do not want to go.

If the children refuse visitation and the other parent does not cooperate, it is possible to seek enforcement support in the family courts. No matter how difficult the relationship has been between parent and child, the courts will typically view preserving that bond as important for the child’s social and emotional development.

Learning more about how the Utah family courts manage custody cases may benefit those worried about what divorce might mean for their relationship with their children. Seeking legal guidance can provide a parent with personalized guidance unique to their circumstances.