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  • My Legal Briefcase

    Regarding custody: My daughter deals with her mother's emotional nonsense much too frequently for an eleven-year-old girl. I'm not sure its normal for a mother/exwife to bad mouth and trash- talk her ex-husband. My daughter wants nothing more than to live with us. Is there an age when a child can decide on their own?
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    No, there is no such age. Nonetheless, by age 16, if a teenager moves with her
    feet, no court is going to stop her. No statute or court has ever drawn a line in the sand
    because with children, everything depends upon individual facts and their best interests.
    And a child's best interest first depends upon who's telling the story and secondly upon
    who's telling the story and secondly upon who's listening. Even if one parent indicates
    where the child says she "wants" to live, a judge might well suspect the child is saying
    the exact same thing to the other parent. Why would a child do that? First, the child may
    not wish to hurt the other parent's feelings. Secondly, a child may well want
    to manipulate the situation. It's not unusual for a child to "play" one parent off the other.
    What one child then "says" and another parent actually "hears" can cause tremendous pain
    to both. For this wise reason, a child's age is not the only legal test because the true
    wishes of a child may not be the best criteria, especially when the child doesn't want to be
    asked or might be planning meticulously for a PlayStation 3. And if the 12-year-old child
    is immature, then the child's chameleon wishes the next day may be a trip to
    Disneyworld, if properly coached. Maybe child support is consistently late and mom can't
    pay the bills. Should her ill-advised bursts of frustration now really translate into a
    change of custody? My strong advice: Take the pressure off the child. Sit down with your
    ex and start compromising for the child's sake. If you can't get past your mutual distrust,
    hatred and anger get help from a mediator or a therapist. No rules about "when that kid
    turns 12 she's moving in with me and that will show her" is going to turn your daughter
    into a better person, a moral woman, a loving individual with a peaceful soul. When she's
    older you want her to say "my daddy did the right thing." Remember also the words of
    William Blake: "we become what we behold." So set an example ? lest your bitter child
    develops her own troubled relationships.

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