When a couple gets a divorce, the primary concern is often the custody privileges they have over their children. Statistics suggest that nearly 50 percent of all children in North America experience their parents getting a divorce. With such a high divorce rate, the question often arises “Can a child decide which parent to live with?” While a common question, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
In highly contested custody battles, the dispute may end up in a courtroom where each spouse will be able to detail their argument for why they deserve custody of the children. In court, a judge will listen to both accounts and make an initial custody ruling while the divorce proceedings progress. For a more detailed account about how you can best position yourself to receive a favorable child custody decision from a judge, it is best that you work with an experienced South Carolina divorce attorney.
Child Custody in South Carolina
According to South Carolina law, there are two different kinds of child custody: physical and legal. The following is a brief description of each custody variant:
- Legal Custody: Refers to the decision making parental rights. This can include decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, and medical care.
- Physical Custody: Refers to where the child predominantly lives. Physical custody also refers to the kind of care each parent can provide the child.
Depending on the custody arrangement, both physical and legal custody can include sole or joint custody arrangements. In joint custody, the parents will share time and decision making ability with each other. In the event that sole custody is granted, one parent will make decisions and will spend the vast majority of the time with the child. When determining custody in South Carolina, a judge will examine numerous factors prior to rendering a decision.
Children’s Right To Choose Parent
Among the factors that South Carolina divorce judges look at are the preferences of each child involved in the divorce. In fact, judges are obligated to at least consider the preferences of the children. However, the judge will also factor in the child’s age, judgment, and maturity when considering the child’s opinion. However, the judge will not consider the child’s opinion if they believe the child is being coerced, bribed, punished, or otherwise swayed to make claims that are not their own.
It should be noted that there is no law in South Carolina that mandates that a judge must consider a child’s opinion when making a child custody agreement. There is precedent to support both arguments, meaning there have been cases in the past where judges have heavily relied on the statements of a child, and there is evidence of judges completely disregarding the opinions of children involved. So the answer to whether a child can decide which parent to live with is vague. They may have the opportunity to state their preference, but that may not ultimately come to be.
Do You Need Help?
If you are going through a divorce and are fighting for the custody of your children, it is extremely important that you reach out to an experienced Charleston divorce attorney. The right attorney can make a world of difference as you fight for your children. At McCoy & Stokes, LLC our dedicated divorce attorney understand what you are going through and are prepared to aggressively advocate on your behalf. If you are in need of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us today.