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Laura Dale & Associates, P.C.

Let children participate in visitation schedule decisions

We always hear that custody and visitation decisions are supposedly made in the "best interests" of the child. So, why not let our children tell us what their interests are? Instead of having doctors and psychologists tell the Harris County Family Court what is best for our children during your divorce, visitation or custody dispute, why not just ask your kids? What if we also revisited the custody settlement or visitation schedule every two years? As your child ages, so will his or her priorities, friends, school activities and interests.

Experts agree the age of reason is 7 years old. But the schedule of a 7-year-old is much different than that of a 15-year-old high school student. By revisiting the custody and visitation schedule periodically it allows for changes of priorities in your child's life. Other factors like grades, home life and the success of peer relationships would obviously also need to be taken into consideration.

Opponents of allowing children to decide what is in their own best interest are afraid that youngsters might be manipulated or bribed by one parent or the other. However, others feel that allowing children to voice their needs and concerns will teach them responsibility, and subsequently, the consequences of their decisions. While most children may not like having to choose one parent over the other, they also do not feeling voiceless and powerless in the midst of a divorce or other family law dispute they had nothing to do with and no control over.

Allowing families to speak with mediators and just taking a temperature check every couple years will allow children to be heard and respected. Isn't that really the best we can hope for in the best interest of the child?

Source: nytimes, "In Whose Best Interests?" Ruth Bettelheim, "May 19, 2012

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