In Arizona, there is no magic age at which a child can choose which parent he or she wants to live with. Rather, at any age where the Court deems the child mature enough to participate (generally in his or her pre-teens and teens) a child has the opportunity to voice his or her opinions and concerns regarding parenting time and legal decision-making. In Pima County, this is generally done through the use of a child interview and is often done through our Conciliation Court. The interviewer then prepares an interview summary and sends the summary and a recording of the interview to the judge, who will then release it to the parents.
The requests made in the child interview are not binding upon the court. Rather, the child’s position is one of many factors that the court has to consider when determining what parenting plan is in the child’s best interests. A list of the factors that the court has to consider can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes section 25-403.
Dr. Benjamin Garber described the Court’s position well when he said, “Voice, Not Choice.”
While children’s concerns and opinions are often valid, children are still children, and their opinions may also be based upon something other than their best interests or may be based on knowing limited facts. Parents should also be concerned about placing the burden of a “choice” upon their children. Inherently, that choice requires the child to choose one parent over the other. Children generally want to please both parents, and this could be a heartbreaking burden for a child.
As a parent in litigation, it is important to consider and present all of the factors to the court for its consideration. At Rolfe Hinderaker, our attorneys are skilled in custody (legal decision-making) and parenting time matters. If you need assistance, contact Rolfe Hinderaker for a consultation.