Trying to find a fair and mutually acceptable way to split up custody in a divorce is often very difficult. You and your ex may not agree about what is fair or reasonable given your unique family circumstances.
For many couples with young children, custody arrangements are the primary and most disputed issue that they have to address on their divorce. It is also an area in which people seek guidance, as custody can have long-term impacts on the social and emotional health of children.
Talking to professionals ranging from your own attorney to psychologists and counselors can help you create a parenting plan that benefits everyone in your family. Talking to older family members can also give you insight based on your kids’ needs. However, whether you ask your kids depends on circumstances. One of the most important questions you will have to answer during your divorce is whether your children should have a voice in the outcome of custody proceedings.
There is no age at which Ohio starts granting autonomy to children
In some states, either the legal code or existing legal precedent from previous cases creates a specific age at which the courts will begin to consider the wishes of children when allocating custody in a divorce. Ohio is not one of those states.
Instead, the courts in Ohio will focus primarily on the maturity of the child in question on a case-by-case basis. Teenagers, particularly older and responsible teens, may have the right to speak up about their wishes in court. However, you should carefully consider whether it will really benefit your child to have to make a statement about their custody preferences in court.
Instead of feeling empowering, having a say could just be stressful
Perhaps you imagine that in your child’s position, you would want to be able to speak about your personal preferences regarding where you live for the majority of your time. While that certainly is true in some cases, quite a few children find the need to weigh in on custody proceedings to be a strain on their mental health and potentially their relationships with their parents.
Kids may worry about alienating the other parents if they vocalize a preference for spending more time with one parent in custody proceedings. They may also worry about making the wrong choice and could blame themselves if there are familial conflicts or major stresses in the future.
You might consider asking your children if they have a strong preference. If they don’t indicate that they do, given that the average custody proceeding results in shared custody arrangements between parents, your best option may be to move forward with making decisions that will minimize the exposure your child has to the divorce, rather than involving them deeply in it.