My son in 11 and no longer wishes to be forced to visit his father. When is he old enough to choose?
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
The court is required to "consider" the child's desires when he is 12. That does not mean that the court has to abide by the child's wishes. The child has no legal right until he is 18 and an adult. But the older he gets the more likely the court is to honor his desire. But I would caution you, mom. The court will almost certainly inquire as to why the child does not want to be with his father. If you have anything to do with it you could be in a world of trouble, depending on the judge. You are under a positive legal injunction by statute to promote the good relationship of your children with their non-custodial father. You should have already been required to take a course in promoting this relationship. If you have in any way caused this attitude of the child toward his father, then beware of the consequences. If I were the judge in such a circumstance and discovered that the custodial parent was the cause, then I would slam that parent even to the point of taking the child from the parent and giving custody to the other. Courts have the power and the instruction to do just that! Now if the child's dislike of his father has to do with the fact that the father is a disciplinarian, has set rules, wants certain behavior, all of which is reasonable, then, as judge, I would say to the kid, "tough, that's what parents are for. He's your father, respect him. You are only 11 years old, you don't know what's good for you yet." Of course, if the father is a drunk, abusive, unnecessarily harsh or genuinely at fault, then that's another matter.
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Divorce / Separation Lawyer
With all due respect to Mr. Picci, I know of no requirement for a florida judge to consider the desires of a 12 year old. In Florida, there is no magic age. Florida law calls for conisderation of a child's reasonable preference only if "the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference." Many Florida judges will not even speak with children so a big problem is how to get his wishes before the judge, which often has to be done through a Guardian ad Litem or child psychologist.
I wholeheartedly endorse Mr. Pucci's comments about the consequences you may face if you have anything to do with his not wanting to see his dad. You need to consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your obligations and options in this situation.
This is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice upon which anyone should rely. Nor does it create any attorney client relationship.
Stanton L. Cobb
Board Certified Marital & Family Law Specialist
Fellow - American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
P.O. Box 149223
Orlando, FL 32814-9223