Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Bill would give children a voice in divorce proceedings

When a couple decides to divorce, it is often vary hard on the children. During a divorce, the wishes and concerns of the children are often overlooked or ignored in favor of the court's reasoning as to what is in the child's best interest. Parents have the ability to work out agreements between themselves, with the court's approval, but those agreements usually reflect the parent's wishes and not the child's.

Utah is considering a bill that would give a voice to children who are involved in a divorce. The bill would allow children who are 14 years or older to have input as to which parent they would prefer to live with. The bill, which passed the state Senate, will allow the judge to consider the child's wishes when making a determination. Opponents of the bill point out that a parent could manipulate a child during the proceedings and use them as leverage during the divorce.

Currently, Utah law allows judges to consider the wishes of children 16 years of age or older. The bill if passed would lower that age to 14. Even though the bill allows for the child's wishes to be considered, judges will still have the final say so when it comes to child custody determinations.

While the law will place more power in the hands of the children, it might also result in strained relationships as children willingly or under coercion pick one parent over another. Hopefully, by giving children a voice in the divorce process, they can feel a bit more in control of their destinies during a time when everything may seem out of control.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, "Senate bill would give youth a say in divorce proceedings," Robert Gehrke, Feb. 7, 2013

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