January 19, 2023

Considering the Child’s Preference in Custody Hearings in Florida

When parents are no longer living together, they must agree on where their children will live. In some cases, a judge will make this decision. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the judge may consider their preference. This article will describe how this preference is handled in Florida.

Custody Decisions in Florida

When parents cannot decide how to divide parenting responsibilities and visitation time, a judge will decide for them. After both parents present evidence and arguments to the court, the judge will create a plan that is in the child’s best interest. This plan will include a visitation schedule and parental responsibilities that the judge believes are most suitable.

In the Child’s Best Interests

Time-sharing and decisions about parental responsibility for a child are based on what is best for them. Any custody hearings aim to figure out a parenting arrangement suitable for the child’s needs. Unlike other states, Florida’s custody laws require a judge to consider a parent’s morality when deciding.

A parent’s moral fitness refers to any matters that could affect the child’s moral and ethical development, such as substance abuse, having multiple partners, or any illegal activities. To decide, a judge will consider the effect of a parent’s extramarital relationship on the child.

Considering the Child’s Opinion in the Custody Decision

In Florida, the age at which a child can choose which parent to live with is not set in stone. Instead, the judge will consider the child’s maturity level, intelligence, understanding of the decision, and experiences with both parents before making a decision. The judge will assess these factors to determine whether the child is mature enough to decide which parent to live with.

The age at which a child can decide which parent to live with can vary depending on the circumstances. The court will consider the child’s preference and all other relevant factors, but the court is not obligated to decide based solely on the child’s opinion. The court will investigate if a parent influences the child’s opinion, and the court will make independent decisions for each child.

Are Minors Required to Testify in Court?

In Florida, a child is not required to testify in a family law court case. The court is very mindful of the fact that minors should be kept out of these proceedings. If necessary, a judge may allow a child to speak in court, or the court may have an expert, such as a licensed mental health professional, guardian ad litem, or custody evaluator, speak on behalf of the child. Additionally, the judge may take the child into their chambers to hear what they have to say. If this is done, a court reporter must be present to record the child’s words and for the judge to consider in their decision.


The primary consideration in Florida custody hearings is the child’s best interests. Factors such as the child’s age, emotional bond, mental and physical health, and individual preferences are all considered. It is important to note that while the child’s preference is given due consideration, it is not the sole factor in determining the outcome. Ultimately, the court must decide based on the child’s best interests that preserve the child’s health, safety, and welfare.

Dorsey Law JAX specializes in a wide range of family law issues. We provide all services under family law, from injunctions against domestic violence to divorce processes. We work to negotiate settlements but will fearlessly take a case to trial when necessary. If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Jacksonville, FL, we are more than willing to help. Get in touch with us today and let’s talk.



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