Across the United States, child custody decisions are made by the courts based upon what the judge determines to be in childrens' best interests. Primarily, this decision-making process seeks to safeguard the children, ensuring that they are not in an environment that is abusive or unsafe.
However, determining what is in the best interests of the child from the perspective of growth and building relationships is highly subjective, and extremely dependent on the child's age.
From a very early age, a child can express an opinion on which parent or custodian he or she would like to be living with. However, a child's opinion at age 3 is going to be considered in a different way than a child's opinion at age 14. If your child is expressing a strong opinion about whom he or she wants to live with, it is important to understand what consequence this can have on child custody decisions.
The journey to making a decision that is in the child's best interests
When a judge is considering what ruling would be optimal for the child's best interests, they will consider a wide variety of factors, and they will seek to gain information from many different sources. This might mean gaining statements from the child's teacher, and therapist if they have one. When appropriate, it will also include gaining the opinion and knowing the wishes of the child in question. In the state of Colorado, however, there is not a particular age at which the judge must listen to the child's wishes.
In Colorado, the child's wishes will be taken into account if he or she is considered to have made an independent decision in a mature way. Younger children are very impressionable, and they may say that they want to live with one parent in order to appease them or because he or she knows that is what they want. Young children may also change what they say around different parties. Therapists can help interpret the child's wishes in this respect because they can dig deeper into a less mature child's emotions.
If you want to know how your child's wishes might affect the custody decision, it is important to consider the age of your child and whether you believe they formed the decision independently.