A client of ours in Fall River Massachusetts has a custody agreement with a rotating visitation schedule between of the mother and the father. Prior to the child reaching the age of 12, the mother had spoken to a local police officer who informed her that at age 12 the child could be making choices in court for custody and visitation. Once the child in fact did reach the age of 12, this client went back to the police station and asked to speak to someone about child custody because of what she believe she was told in the past by a police officer. The police rightfully so said they’d never remember saying anything like that, and that that’s a matter for the Massachusetts Family Court and a judge to decide. Basically the question is can children who are under the age of 18 make decisions on child custody, child support and visitation?
I should clear up to points right off the bat, people under the age of 18 are considered by the FAMILY COURT to be minors and cannot make their own minds up for them, they can simply have their point of view heard by the court. Police officers, are NOT attorneys or trained as attorneys and should never be used as a resource for asking legal questions. This is not taking away from police officers at all, it’s simply not their job to handle matters in Family Court or even in criminal court, other than charging the suspect with a crime and testifying at trial against the defendant.
Let’s once again addressed the issue of a minor child making decisions pertaining to child custody, child support and visitation schedule. Depending on the child’s age and how well the child can articulate their feelings and the reasons behind those feelings, and the particular judge on the matter will determine how much credibility a child’s statements have in court. This is especially true if what the children are saying contradicts what the parents are saying, because there is a high level of manipulation of one parent getting a child to say exactly what needs to be said in court to get certain results against the other parent. Judges completely understand that parents play their children to simply get what they want in The Family Court system. There is no black letter law rule, that states a minor reaching the age of 12 or any other age, has the right to make decisions of law pertaining to their life. They are children, they can be heard, but at the end of the day the judge will take all factors into consideration and also that one parent possibly could be manipulating that child into stating what needs to be said to get the result in court that particular parent wants. Since the judges see this very often, they only use the child’s testimony for how they perceive the particular set of circumstances. So basically there’s no age at which your child can tell you I want to go live with mommy or I want to go live with daddy. There is nothing that states they can say when they no longer want to visit that other parent. They are children and will do as their parents tell them, by the guidelines set up in the child support, child custody and visitation agreements established by the Family Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Joseph F. Botelho, Esq.
BOTELHO LAW GROUP
Attorneys At Law
901 Eastern Ave.
Fall River, MA 02723
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