In Oklahoma, kids twelve and older may state a preference concerning custody and visitation. Learn how to know a good case from a train wreck in the making.
What is a Preference Case
In Oklahoma, kids twelve and older may state a preference concerning custody and visitation. The court is not bound by the preference, but it is one of many factors the court will consider in awarding custody and visitation. My experience is that that unless there is a really good reason not to follow the preference, most often the court will give the preference a significant amount of weight. Under the right circumstances, you can have a successful case based on the preference of a child. Under the wrong circumstances, you have a train wreck waiting to happen.
Summer is often a busy time at the courthouse. At the start of each summer I get calls that the kids don't want to go visit their dad. At the end of the summer I get calls that the kids don't want to go home to mom. What exacerbates this problem is that the age kids can state this preference is twelve!
Thing is, kids this age want to please their parents. They want their parent's approval. They want their parents to be proud of them. So, what happens? When the kids are with mom they tell mom what she wants to hear. When the kids are with dad, they tell dad what he wants to hear.
So, how do I know if I have a good case?
Always ask yourself this:
Does little Jimmie only say he wants to live with me when at my house?
Is little Jimmie telling not only you, but the other parent, his teachers, his friends, and basically everyone else that will listen that they want to live with you?
Example of a Good Case
"Jimmie told his mom, his best friend, his friend's parents, his teachers, and is posting on social media that he wants to live with me."
This is most likely a kid that probably has decided he wants a change and wants to live with you and will tell the court the same thing = generally good case.
With this said, there are still going to be those cases where a child will initially say they want a change but then at some point in the future decide they want to stay where they are. When you can clearly see that this has happened, don't force the child to speak to the judge and put them through that ordeal for no reason! You might be angry that the child has changed his mind, but do not take this anger out on the child. If the preference is simply no longer there, know when to tap out.
Should I ask My Child If They Want to Live With Me?
I say No. If you do, you are setting yourself up to be told what the child thinks you want to hear.
If I don't ask how will I know they want to live with me? Observe and listen! The child will approach you. They will approach the other parent. They will approach anyone that will listen. They will make it known. Don't put your kids in the middle. Don't ask them where they want to live because they are probably going to tell you exactly what they think you want to hear.
If you have a good case, bring it! If you don't, leave it. Moreover, know how to tell if you have a good case and when you don't. Let this be your guide.
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