Does a child's opinion matter to a court? It does in Columbus child custody cases, although a child's preferences are one among several factors considered by the court. The Ohio State Bar Association emphasizes that the best interests of the child come above all individual considerations.
The state Supreme Court recently determined that the rights of a teen who wanted to be present during her parents' custody hearing were not violated. The child had been the focus of an international custody battle. The case involved a mother of Russian origin and an American father.
The divorce process had begun when the father absconded with the girl, then 3, and fled to Florida. When Federal Bureau of Investigation agents caught up with the father, the man was in possession of fake identification and $55,000 in cash. Authorities believed that the dad was preparing to flee with his daughter to Costa Rica.
The divorce was finalized when the child was five; weeks later, the mother left the U.S. with the girl for Russia. Kidnappers entered the ex-wife's Moscow home a year later, drugged the woman and child and took off with the girl. United States investigators are convinced that the father engineered the kidnapping.
Eventually, the girl was returned to Ohio and her mother, who moved back to the state. The parents remain locked in a bitter visitation and child custody dispute throughout the girl's childhood. As a teen, the daughter was interviewed by the juvenile court about the custody matter, but a request to attend her parents' hearing was turned down.
The state Supreme Court ruled the teen's due process rights were not trampled, because the child acknowledged her opinion was expressed fully in the private court interview. Judges listen to the desires of children and parents in custody cases, but reserve the right to go against those wishes when they conflict with what's best for the welfare a child.
Source: Cleveland.com, "Fake documents, stack of cash and foreign abduction set stage for Ohio Supreme Court case" Robert Higgs, Northeast Ohio Media Group, Jun. 19, 2014