Children's Custody Rights: Protecting the Child's Interest

Children aren't mature enough to have the same rights as parents, but they have certain protections. These ensure the best interest of the child.

Knowing children's custody rights can help you throughout the court process.

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The right to state their opinion

In some states, the court must consider the child's custody preference when making the final custody decision. The judge usually figures this out by interviewing the child in private. The older the child, the more weight is given to their opinion.

The court won't always go along with what the child says, even in states like Georgia, where children 14 or older can generally choose whom they want to live with. The judge must rule in line with the child's best interest. So if a child wants to live with a parent simply because that parent lets them stay up late, the judge will only go with that if that parent is the most competent.

Children can testify during a trial if they have information that can impact the verdict. This is rare since testifying can be distressing for a child. Instead, the judge usually speaks to the child in private or appoints a professional like a custody evaluator to assess the situation.

The right to legal representation

Children have a right to their own legal representation if necessary.

Guardians ad litem represent the child's best interest. They are usually reserved for cases involving abuse or neglect, but some states assign them in all child custody cases.

Attorneys ad litem represent what the child wants. Typically, they're appointed on a case-by-case basis, but there are courts that require their involvement for specific case types.

These professionals speak for the child in court and advocate for their rights. Also, they might conduct a short investigation that includes interviews with each parent and a viewing of the child's potential homes.

The right to safety, education and healthcare

Children have the right to live in an environment free of substance abuse, violence and other dangers. This is why child welfare agencies can intervene when parents put a child in danger. This right also impacts whether a parent receives physical custody.

As another protection for the well-being, children have a right to quality education and healthcare.

The right to have a relationship with both parents

Research has shown that children fare better when both parents are part of their lives. For this reason, courts seek to make custody rulings that let the child build a relationship with both parents. Even if a parent isn't fit for custody, protections like supervised visitation ensure the child can safely be around them.

Parents must also protect this right by allowing visits and not interfering with the other parent's time with the child. Otherwise, they could lose custody.

The right to financial support

So long as the child is under 18, parents must financially support them.

When parents separate, one typically pays child support to the other. The payer is generally the noncustodial parent or the parent who sees the child less often. If the parent fails to pay support, they could faces penalties ranging from fines to jail time.

Proving that you're fit for custody

To prove to the court that you meet the best interest of the child, you'll need solid evidence.

The Custody X Change online app can help you:

Custody X Change has the tools you need to show the court you have your child's best interest in mind.

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