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How children’s choices affect Columbus child custody decisions

Family court judges consider a child's desires about living arrangements following the end of parental relationships. That's not to say a minor's wishes are the sole factor in determining child custody. Minors and judges may have very different opinions about what constitutes the best interests of a child.

Children are not neutral third parties in child custody cases. They are in the thick of an emotionally-charged issue, worried about the personal consequences of whatever custody decision is made. Many children may not want to be place in the position of having to choose between parents' homes, because it can feel like they're choosing sides.

Ohio judges realize children's custody choices may be influenced by parents' opinions and swayed by personal wants. When a judge wants to speak to a child about custody, the interview is conducted in private chambers without parents present. In some cases, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem or legal representative for a child.

The information a judge gathers becomes a component in the custody case. Whether a court agrees with the child's wishes depends upon other elements in the case, which also includes the parents' desires. Judges take into account a child's familial, physical, mental, educational and social needs and stability.

Parents' actions are also scrutinized by the court. Custody is negatively affected by a parent's criminal conviction for child abuse, noncompliance with child-related court orders and plans to relocate out of state. A parent's financial status may not influence a custody decision.

Many Ohio parents are creating shared parenting plans designed to reduce or eliminate child custody disputes and benefit children. Parents must be willing to co-parent, which includes joint decision-making about child rearing and generous opportunities for child contact with both parents. Co-parenting isn't always easy for exes, but parenting plans allow adults to put aside personal conflicts and focus on the shared responsibility of raising children.

Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "Children's Wishes Are Considered in Custody Matters" Aug. 25, 2014

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