Utah bill would empower 14-year-olds in child custody matters
While divorce is always a difficult process for the spouses to go through, it can be even harder on the children. Parents may fight over who retains physical custody of the children and the kids are often caught in the middle. While there has been a large move toward peaceful negotiations through divorce mediation, sometimes divorce cases still end up in front of a judge.
Having passed through the Utah Senate with an overwhelming vote a bill could give younger children a voice in child custody decisions if the state's House of Representatives approves it.
The bill is designed to give younger children the opportunity to voice during divorce proceedings which parent they prefer to live with. One of the two senators who voted against the bill feels that the bill places too much pressure on those children. Concern was also voiced that the bill could place younger children in a vulnerable position; a parent might take the opportunity to use the child's preference as a weapon against the other parent.
In Utah, judges are only allowed to consider the input of children who are 16 or older. However, the bill would change that to kids as young as 14. It would not become law until it is passed by the House and signed by the governor.
It is unknown how this change would affect mediation proceedings or if the younger children would have an equal say in this environment. It would be wise for parents to talk with their children to determine what their preference is before taking the matter into a courtroom.