The overriding principle guiding Tennessee courts on child custody questions is answering the question, what is in the best interest of the child? Many children would likely be prepared to express their personal opinion about their preferred custody situation. However, whether they are allowed to have their voice heard depends to some extent on state law.
The specific language dealing with this question can be found in section 36-6-106 of the state’s annotated code. If a reader takes the initiative to look it up and then scrolls down to item 13, they will find that in making child custody determinations regarding minor children the court must consider several factors and may consider:
“The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children.”
The key word in that paragraph is “reasonable.” What that means is subject to interpretation. Each parent may have a point of view on the subject. The child might take a position that favors neither one nor the other parent. If they meet the age set by law, they have a right to try to make their case. Though that’s not something they are likely to be able to do on their own.
In some situations, the court might determine that the best interests of the child require that they have legal representation of their own. When the need is present, the court may appoint an attorney to serve as a child’s guardian ad litem – to argue for the child’s interests.
Regardless of the role filled, experienced attorneys working on cases involving minors know that protecting the children’s’ interests is job one.