When parenting time (formerly child custody) is an issue, we are frequently asked whether a child gets to “choose” where they live or has other rights in a divorce. Many clients have heard stories that there is an “age of consent,” and many of our clients were, or know of, a child of divorce who was allowed (or forced) to choose between their parents.
The short answer to this question is: “no, children do not get to choose where they live.” However, the answer is more complicated.
There are several factors in determining what is in a child’s best interests as to where the child primarily lives (or whether parenting time is divided “50/50”). One of these factors is “the wishes of the child.” C.R.S. § 14-10-124(1.5)(a)(II). However, the wishes of the child are only a relevant factor if the child “is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule.”
Whether or not the child is sufficiently mature is a specific question that a judge would have to consider at the time of your divorce hearing.
Even if a child is sufficiently mature enough to have a say, this must be weighed against eight other factors that the Court must consider when deciding parenting time.
If you believe your child’s wishes are important for a Court to consider, there are several ways to present their wishes to the Court, the most of common of which is to request the Court appoint a Child and Family Investigator (“CFI”) to conduct an investigation, which includes speaking with the child(ren) of the divorce and reporting back to the Court.
If you are in a situation where you have concerns that your spouse, or ex-spouse, does not have your children’s best interest, or wishes, in mind, we recommend you contact an experienced family law attorney to advise you as to the specifics of your circumstances.