Decisions about the custody of children during a divorce proceeding is frequently a nasty and damaging experience, for both the children and the parents. Any law that can ease that process and help determine what is in the best interest of the child is always a positive.
A big part of what makes a child custody battle so difficult is the lack of pre-knowledge by the courts. Before a divorcing couple come before a moderator or judge, those officials have no insight into the dynamic and history of that family. In many cases, this leaves the determination of custody susceptible to which parent puts on the best “show” or makes the most convincing argument (even their facade doesn’t reflect reality).
Often, the best judge of who should have custody of a child, is the child themselves. Obviously not a 5 year old, but once a child is in their early teens they know what is happening in their family and whether they face potential abuse from one parent or the other.
Current law says that a judge or moderator cannot consider a child’s opinion (of which parent they want to live with) until they are 16 years of age. Perhaps that was reasonable 40 years ago, but in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter and the internet, kids are exposed to the realities of life faster and earlier than ever before – certainly long before they reach 16.
SB 18 from Senator Luz Robles (Democrat, SLC) is a sensible bill that very simply recognizes the need for children to have their voices counted when major decisions about their lives are made. It allows judges and moderators who are making child custody decisions to consider the expressed desires of a child two year earlier, at age 14.
One could argue that the age restriction should be lowered even further, and perhaps in some circumstances that could be a good thing. But lowering the age to 14 errs on the side of caution, allowing a child’s requests to be heard, yet keeping the age above the younger years where they may be more susceptible to coercion.
Overall, a strong bill that could potentially improve the lives of children who are going through a traumatic situation.
To contact Sen. Robles, Click Here or call 801-550-6434
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill