When the court is making visitation and child custody determinations, it first must determine whether allowing the child to state which parent they want to live with or have visitation with is in the child’s best interests. If it is determined to be in the child’s best interest, then the child may make his or her preferences known.
In Oklahoma, there is a rebuttable presumption that a minor who is at least 12 years old is capable of formulating a preference with regards to their custody and visitation situation. If this is the case, the court will take into consideration the child’s preference when making a child custody and visitation order. However, this is just one factor to consider when making a child custody and visitation determination — there are others.
If the court allows the child to testify as to their custody and visitation preferences, the court may provide the child with a private interview in the absence of the child’s parents and attorneys. That being said, if the child has been given a guardian ad litem, that individual shall attend the child’s private interview. And although they cannot attend the private interview themselves, the child’s parents can provide the judge with topics and issues they would like to have considered. However, the judge is not to be bound to these issues.
Child custody and visitation issues are some of the most important decisions that will be made when parents divorce. By keeping the child’s preferences and best interests at heart, decisions can be made that provide the child with the home environment they need to cultivate a healthy relationship with both of their parents.