While there are no hard and fast rules regarding child custody determination, one of the crucial factors the judge considers is the child’s age. But how exactly does the child’s age impact the custody agreement?
Infants and toddlers
If the non-primary parent is the father, full visitation schedules may not be the best option for infants and toddlers since they typically have to be closer to the mother as their source of nutrition until they can eat solid food. Because of the child’s tender age, the agreement may limit the duration of visits of the non-primary parent.
When a child turns four and older, which is usually the time they start going to school, they are more likely to adjust moderately well to the visitation setup where they go from home to home to spend time with each parent. For this reason, age typically does not play as much of a role in this bracket as other determining factors.
Older children, usually aged 15-17, might need flexible custody or visitation arrangements since they usually have more activities (ex: school clubs and training) and obligations (ex: part-time jobs) at these ages. They normally need more freedom to make their weekly schedules and it is common for them to change plans at the last minute. Therefore, the court might not impose strict rules but rather guidelines to follow.
When the child expresses their preference
At a certain age, usually around 12-14, the child may voice their preference when it comes to whom they will stay with and the visitation details of the other parent. If a child has a stronger bond with one parent than the other, they are more likely to prefer that parent’s home. While the child’s preference does not automatically apply, the judge will consider this to determine custody and visitation details.
Even when parents are no longer together, they would want to spend time with their children. However, the child’s best interest is still the number one priority despite what the parents’ wishes may be.