If you are in the middle of a child custody case with an ex-spouse, you should know that a Michigan judge will weigh many factors when deciding custody. Such factors include what state law considers the best interests of a child, such as the future upbringing of the child and the moral fitness of each parent. Another factor, however, is the preference of the child or children involved.
The Michigan Courts website explains that courts do accept the expressed preference of a child to be in the custody of a particular parent. However, this preference comes with a few caveats. First, a child expressing preference is just one of many considerations. While important, the preference of a child does not take automatic precedence over other factors evaluated by a judge.
A judge must also consider whether the child can reasonably express a preference for a custody arrangement. Children who are older and more mature are more likely to express a reasonably considered preference than those who are younger and less aware of what is going on with a custody dispute and the court proceedings. Still, while judges may give more weight to the wishes of older children, it does not mean older children possess a guaranteed right to have their preference granted.
Judges also examine the preference history of the child toward one parent or the other. Sometimes a child may express a preference for a parent but it does not appear consistent with past interactions. For example, a child may express a current desire to stay with a father, but that child had also spent a lot of time with the father recently. However, the past, consistent preference of the child was always for the mother.
Even with all the factors a judge considers, there is not a guarantee that the judge will grant the child his or her preference. Children do not have a right to legally decide where they can live until reaching 18 years old. Children younger than 18, however, might choose a permanent residence if they are eligible for emancipation.