Your teen's opinion may be a factor in determining custody.A Michigan teenager cannot decide which parent gets custody. However, a judge may consider your teenager’s preference when deciding child custody issues in some situations. As a parent, it’s essential to know what to expect, what to consider, and how to help your teen through this family transition.

How Michigan Courts Decide Child Custody

Michigan courts consider many different factors when determining child custody, including:

  • The parent/child relationship including the love, affection, and emotional connection between each parent and the child
  • Each parent’s ability and interest in guiding the child educationally and religiously (if applicable)
  • Each parent’s capacity and willingness to provide for the child’s physical needs
  • The child’s current living environment 
  • The stability of each parent’s home and family life
  • Each parent’s moral fitness as it relates to raising a child
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health as it relates to caring for a child
  • The child’s home, school, and community record
  • Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The child’s reasonable preference if the child is old enough and mature enough to share that opinion
  • Any other factors relevant to the best interests of the child

Your child’s preferences do not carry more weight than any of the factors considered by the court. If the other factors lead the judge to believe that a particular child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child, then the child’s testimony won’t change the judge’s opinion. But, if the judge believes that the best interest of the child could be served in more than one way, then the child’s opinion may be persuasive. 

When a Court Will Consider a Teen’s Opinion

If your child is of “sufficient age,” then your child’s preferences will be considered as one of the determining factors in a child custody agreement.

Typically, a judge will only interview a child if the judge believes that the child is old enough and mature enough to share a reasonable opinion concerning custody. There is no magic age at which this happens for all teenagers. Instead, the court will consider whether a teen’s opinion is relevant on a case-by-case basis.

Your child will probably not be required to testify in open court or even with their parents present. Instead, the judge will ask a Friend of the Court to interview your child, or the judge will talk to your child in court chambers.

If the court does interview the child, the child’s opinion will only be considered if it is reasonable. The court will want to know why the child prefers to live with one parent over the other. If the teenager prefers to live with a parent who doesn’t enforce a curfew, the court may not be swayed by the teen’s testimony. However, if the teen prefers to live with the parent who helps with homework and who is around in the evenings, then the court may be more likely to consider the child’s opinion.

What You Might Consider When Creating Your Teen’s Child Custody Plan

The custody plan you develop for your teenager may be similar to the custody plan you develop for your younger children. However, teens often have different needs, and you may consider a more flexible custody plan because your child:

  • Works
  • Is involved in extracurricular activities or high school sports teams
  • Spends a lot of time with friends
  • Wants independence and control 

Setting a strict schedule may interfere with these important teenage activities and create resentment and family conflict. 

Our Bloomfield Hills Family Law Attorneys Are Here to Help Your Family

Many teenagers naturally start separating from their parents and becoming more independent. It can be tricky to raise a teen during a divorce. As a parent, you need to provide your child with the necessary support and guidance now and prepare your child for the future.

Our Bloomfield Hills divorce lawyers are here to discuss your child custody options with you. We understand that teens have their own opinions and that parents do too. We can help you know what to expect from the court and prepare you for what comes next.

We will go the extra mile for you. Please click the blue “Send Us a Text Message!” button on this page, complete our contact form, or call us to find out more.