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Can a teen influence custody decisions in Alabama?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Child Custody And Support |

Some children fear being put in the middle when their parents divorce. They do not want to take sides and worry that any opinions they express about the divorce might harm their relationship with one of their parents.

Other times, young adults, particularly teenagers, may see a divorce as an opportunity to make their wishes known. They might declare that they want to live with one parent rather than the other and might expect to have a degree of control over the outcome of custody proceedings.

Parents naturally want to limit how stressful divorce is for their children. They typically also want to ensure they have plenty of time with their children following a divorce. Do a teenager’s preferences potentially mean that one parent won’t get to spend time with them after a divorce?

Young adults don’t control custody decisions

Regardless of how strongly they may feel about custody issues, young adults do not actually control court determinations. Technically, in Alabama, young adults are not fully free from the oversight of their parents until they reach 19 years of age. Until they become legal adults, they are subject to the custody order created by the Alabama family courts.

Occasionally, judges consider input from the minor children in a family. They can factor their preferences into their final custody decisions. However, what the child requests is merely one of multiple factors that may influence how the judge eventually rules. The main focus should always be on what is in the best interests of the children. Even relatively mature teenagers may have a hard time prioritizing their long-term needs ahead of short-term concerns. Alabama family law judges typically understand that young adults lack the appropriate long-term perspective necessary to make informed and reasonable decisions about custody matters.

They can order parents to bring the children to court or require that they appear without them. Even if one parent in the family currently has a strained relationship with the children in the household, a judge could decide to order shared custody and require that the children spend plenty of time with both adults for their long-term developmental needs.

Parents should not try to pressure their children into avoiding the other parent or canceling parenting sessions. The adults in the family generally have an obligation to uphold the custody arrangements by encouraging their children to spend time with the other parent. Those who intentionally try to damage the relationship their children have with their other parent may put their own parental rights at risk.

Understanding what factors influence Alabama custody determinations may benefit those who are worried about the future of their relationship with their children.