Just as children often have a favorite toy, food or friend, they may also have a preference for one parent over the other. This preference can come up during custody proceedings. If the parents cannot agree on a suitable arrangement, a judge will decide for them. A child’s preference may be considered in this process, though it’s viewed with certain reservations.
In Arkansas, the specifics of how this works are worth exploring.
Age and maturity matter
In Arkansas custody law, there’s no set age when a child can say who they’d prefer to live with in custody cases. However, courts usually listen more to older, more mature kids than younger ones. The child’s maturity, often linked to their age, significantly influences how much consideration their wishes receive.
Based on reasonable grounds
The court will also evaluate if the child’s preference is rooted in reasonable considerations or swayed by external factors. For example, if a child wants to live with one parent because that parent is more lenient with rules or offers more gifts and privileges, the court may not find that preference persuasive.
On the other hand, if a child prefers one parent because they feel safer, more supported and have a stronger emotional bond with them, the court might consider this preference more seriously.
A more serious matter than you might think
Essentially, the preferences of a child, especially an older and more mature one, can significantly influence custody decisions. Courts generally view their opinions as more thoughtful and trustworthy. However, there is no obligation from the court to assign custody based solely on the child’s preference. The primary consideration is always what is in the child’s best interest, which may not align with the child’s expressed preference. This could mean placing them in the environment most conducive to their growth and well-being, regardless of their initial preference.