A Child's Voice in Parenting Time Issues
Often clients or prospective clients will ask: when does the child's opinion matter to the Court? When can they decide where they want to live? Some clients believe the age is twelve or thirteen years old but there is no hard and fast age that the Arizona Courts will then automatically listen to the child's opinion.
The Court may determine a child is too young to voice their opinion, and/or the court may be concerned about one or both parents having too much influence over the child at their age. In Pima County, the Court can order that a child be interviewed by the Conciliation Court. In this interview, a trained professional with the Conciliation Court will meet with the child (without their parents present) and ask questions of the child, then compile a report to go to the Court. Sometimes the Court can order that the report also go to the parties and their attorneys, if they are represented.
The Honorable Judge presiding over the case can also do an in camera examination of the child upon a motion by either or both parties, where the judge will meet with the child in chambers and ask the child questions. The Court does not have to grant this motion and may decide to deny it and instead hear testimony and evidence at a hearing or trial on the matter.
Sometimes the child's opinion on where he or she wishes to live does matter, but many times it is up to the Court or an agreement by the parties to determine what is best for the child under A.R.S. 25-403 (best interest factors).