This is the next post in a series of articles discussing how a child’s preferences about living arrangements may impact custody matters in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous post answered the question, “at what age can a child refuse visitation with their parent?” As with other custody matters, the preferences of a child may, under certain circumstances, be considered by the Court. Depending upon their age and ability to make a mature choice, the child’s preference may be a factor in the decision-making process. While the Court may modify or issue a less-stringent visitation order to accommodate the child’s desire, they will not, absent other reasons, allow the child to refuse visitation altogether. In this article, I will review when the Court will disregard the opinion of a teenager in a custody dispute. If you need assistance, contact my office to schedule a consultation with a fathers’ rights attorney.
As discussed previously in this series, the significance placed upon the preferences of a child in a custody proceeding will depend upon both their age and maturity level. The older the child, the more the Court will presume their maturity and ability to make a responsible choice. This is not, however, without exception. Under a variety of circumstances, the Court may disregard the child’s preferred custody outcome. Such decisions are, at their core, based on what the Court believes to be in the best interest of the child. When there is evidence that the child’s preference does not serve their best interest, a Judge may override their opinion. The child’s choice may be ignored, for instance, if it is based upon unhealthy or immature reasoning, such as preferring to stay with a parent who doesn’t supervise them or allows them to break the rules. Other reasons may include parental coaching or the presence of emotional distress. As with other legal proceedings, a parent opposing the reliance upon a child’s choice may present objective evidence demonstrating the existence of such problems.
These concepts may be best explained by the following examples. Suppose a fifteen year old boy lives week-on/week-off with his mom and dad. He desires to reside full-time with his father for purposes of playing football for the prestigious high school in his dad’s district. Doing so will be a daily commitment but will open doors to potential college opportunities that he doesn’t have at his current school in his mom’s district. In light of the child’s age and the reasons underlying his preference, the Court may consider his desire in its review of the case. Now assume that the child’s mother learns that his dad has been prompting him for several months to make this decision. She locates text messages in which he makes false statements about her ability to properly care for the child, her lack of interest in his education and athletic endeavors, and her general failures as a parent. Upon presenting this information to the Court, they may determine that the father’s coaching unduly influenced the child’s opinion. Further, the father’s attempts to interfere in the boy’s relationship with his mother may be considered to be contrary to the child’s best interests and result in the reduction of his parental rights. It is important to note that how the Court may rule in any given situation will depend upon the specific facts of the case.
Disagreements about custody matters can be stressful and complicated. My office understands the unique concerns of Las Vegas fathers in such matters and is ready to assist you. Contact my office today to speak with a fathers’ rights attorney.