No 9. 14 is the new 16 (in custody determinations that is)
Child Custody Proceedings Amendments (SB 18). This law reduced the age from 16 to 14 as the age when the court may take in consideration a child’s opinion about who he/she wants to live with.
My take: As just one of the many factors that a Judge can take into consideration,it is my view that the child’s opinion should be a factor, especially for older children. 14 is plenty old enough for a child to express his/her opinion in a child custody proceeding.
I handled a case where a 13-year old was refusing to visit with his mom. I’m talking flat our refused. Mom thought Dad was bullying, bribing, or just brainwashing the child into not wanting contact with her. When we went to the trial, the judge let us know right out of the box that he wasn’t going to let a 13-year old dictate his parent-time schedule. Both parties had already stipulated that the Judge could talk directly to the children. After talking with the 13-year old, the Judge made a statement to the effect that he had never before met such an angry and obstinate young man. He acknowledged that if he forced this young man to see his mother, he had told the judge he would run away. In the end, the judge did not order parent time with the mother but did order ongoing therapy for the son. This young man, like many children, felt very strongly about talking directly to the judge and having a say in a decision that would invariably impact his life. Even though the judge in this particular case expressed concern that dad may have improperly influenced the child by airing the parties’ dirty laundry to him, the judge recognized that no matter how the child had arrived at that stage that forcing him to visit his mother would only backfire. It may not be the right decision in every case to put significant weight on the opinion of a child, but 14 year old children should have their voices heard.