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Does a 14 Year-Old Child’s Opinion Matter in a Custody Battle?

The Supreme Court, District Courts as well as the Family Courts in the State of Utah give some deference and weight to the opinion of children.  This is an important part of child custody in Utah. This doesn’t guarantee that a 14 year old will get what he or she wants. As the children age, their opinion is given more weight. Most often any child over the age of 5 is given an attorney by the Court (Attorney for the Child “AFC”). That person will be telling the Judge and anyone who will listen the wishes of the child. If the child is over the age of 14, those wishes will most likely carry great weight in any custody battle.

The result is as follows: children are driving the bus. Children playing one parent against another. Children are empowered to make decisions that, most likely should have been left to adults. Nevertheless, two adults cannot make a decision as to which of them is a better parent or custodial parent, the child will most likely make that decision for them If the child is over the age of 14. Our firm handles almost 1,000 cases a year and only handles divorce and Family Law cases. We know how to support the child’s wishes and we have also successfully won cases by challenging both the child’s preference and the arguments of the AFC or Forensic.

When Pet Custody is an Issue

Many couples and families own beloved pets. The ties that bind humans to animals sometimes outlast those of human relationships. When that happens, sparks fly when one spouse decides Fido is leaving with him or her.

In a recent survey, the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), reported more than a quarter of its members noted an uptick in divorce actions involving pets. The survey revealed trends that include:

  • Top dogs: With 88 percent of disputes devoted to canine companions, dogs take the top spot in disputed pets, followed by cats, horses and, in one case, a 130-pound turtle.
  • Under consideration: Approximately 22 percent of respondents reported courts are increasingly allowing pet custody cases.
  • Heart to heart: Using pet ownership as a legal strategy during divorce heightens conflict and can extend the acrimony and expense of divorce.

Thoughts to consider when the ownership of your pet is pending during divorce include:

  • Is the animal a family pet?  Where can the children best enjoy the animal?
  • Can you share ownership of the animal?  If you share ownership, how are animal expenses to be paid?  Make decisions at the outset about significant medical expenses the animal may incur.
  • What type of ownership is really best for the animal?

In Utah, animal companions are considered property of the marital estate. While a decision in the best interests of the animal makes sense, it is not the legal standard at play when pet ownership is disputed.

Mother Fails to Provide Evidence of Enhancement in Relocation Case

A recent bid before the Appellate Division, Second District failed when a mother was unable to provide important information to support her desired relocation after a divorce.

In Christy v. Christy, appellant Lisa Christy sought relief from a family court decision that prohibited her from carrying out a proposed relocation with the children of her previous marriage.

In Utah, the court maintains authority over the residential location of minor children. Even if two parents agree on relocation, the action must be approved by the court. When relocation is contested, the court must decide the issue in the best interest of the children involved.

In this case, Ms. Christy and her former husband, Brian Christy, have three children. Since the entry of their Judgment of Divorce in June 2012, Ms. Christy has remarried and currently lives with her second husband and his three children. The children of Mr. Christy visit him three weekends per month.

Ms. Christy, an unemployed teacher, sought to relocate to Arizona to pursue a job offer. The job offer to Ms. Christy requires her to recertify as an educator in Arizona. The second husband of Ms. Christy is currently employed in Utah and does not have a job offer in Arizona.

In the earlier family court action, Mr. Christy succeeded in his argument to dismiss the petition of Ms. Christy to relocate. The appellate court agreed with him in January of this year for the following reasons:

  • No evidence of a potential salary was offered by Ms. Christy.
  • No evidence was offered concerning the wishes of the children.
  • No evidence was offered to indicate the lives of the children would be economically or emotionally enhanced in Arizona.
  • The relationship between the noncustodial parent and the children would be affected.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506