Can the child choose who has custody of him/her?
If the judge believes that it is in the child’s best interest, the judge can allow the child to tell his/her preference as to which parent should have custody or regarding limits of periods of visitation. The judge might also allow the child to testify in court about other matters.1 The child’s testimony and preference can be given privately to the judge without the parents or attorneys present.2 However, if the court has appointed a guardian ad litem for the child, s/he will be present with the child while being interviewed by the judge. The parents, attorneys, or other parties can suggest questions or topics they want the judge to consider in the child’s interview, but the judge does not have to use those.3 At the request of either party, the judge will record the child’s interview. However, the parties are only entitled to get the transcript if a parent appeals the custody or visitation order.4
Generally, if the judge thinks that the child is old and mature enough to decide which parent is best for custody, the judge will then consider this, among many other factors. The child’s choice does not bind the judge. In Oklahoma, the courts assume that children 12 years or older are old enough to tell the judge their preference, but a parent can try to prevent this by showing evidence that the child is not mature enough.5
1 43 O.S § 113(A), (B)
2 43 O.S § 113(D)
3 43 O.S § 113(E)
4 43 O.S § 113(F)
5 43 O.S § 113(C)