Many people wonder in a divorce if there is an age at which a child is given the right to make their own decisions. Most courts do tend to start allowing the child to do so around the age of 13-14. Because of this, some people have assumed that there is a set age the Court begins to listen to the child’s wishes as its prime factor in making decision related to the child’s interest. In reality the factors for what is in the best interest of a child are the same at any age.
In determining the child’s best interest, the court must consider all relevant factors, including:
(a) The wishes of the child’s parents regarding the child’s care;
(b) If the court has interviewed the child in chambers pursuant to division (B) of this section regarding the child’s wishes and concerns as to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities concerning the child, the wishes and concerns of the child, as expressed to the court;
(c) The child’s interaction and interrelationship with the child’s parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
(d) The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
(e) The mental and physical health of all persons involved in the situation;
(f) The parent more likely to honor and facilitate court-approved parenting time rights or visitation and companionship rights;
- g) Whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments, including all arrearages, that are required of that parent pursuant to a child support order under which that parent is an obligor;
(h) Whether either parent or any member of the household of either parent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to any criminal offense involving any act that resulted in a child being an abused child or a neglected child ;
(i) Whether the residential parent or one of the parents subject to a shared parenting decree has continuously and willfully denied the other parent’s right to parenting time in accordance with an order of the court;
(j) Whether either parent has established a residence, or is planning to establish a residence, outside this state.
These factors provide a child with the right to be heard during a custody dispute. However, they do not provide a child with a right to be permitted to attend any custody proceeding in which she has an interest, we also recognize that under certain circumstances, a court will properly exclude a child from such proceedings. Instead the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, which will protect the child’s interest in court proceedings.
This issue has been taken up to the Ohio Supreme Court in a case, In re A.G. 139 Ohio St. 3d 572 in 2014 and the Court determined that the child’s due process rights were not violated because the child, who happened to be 13 years old at the time, was excluded from a custody hearing ancillary to her parent’s divorce.
In summary, there is no hard and fast rule where the child is allowed to begin speaking for themselves in custody disputes. Court’s at any age can exclude a child when it is in the child’s best interests. However, the goal is to use the statutory factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child and naturally as a child matures their opinion begins to weigh more in this set of factors.
Please continue to visit our website or schedule a consultation should you desire to know more about your children’s rights during a dissolution or divorce.