The Wishes of the Child in Child Custody/Visitation

Child custody has become every separated parent’s dream battle.
It seems that letting the child choose is one dramatic event that vindicates one parent who may feel that the other parent deserves to be left behind by everyone, including the children.

Philippine laws adopt the “tender years” doctrine as a general rule because traditionally, it is the mother who stays at home and is the primary caretaker of the children. But over the years, the roles of father and mother have evolved so much that oftentimes there is a reversal of roles, where the mother may be the one bringing home the bacon while the father keeps house. While that may not be true for some, what is often the case is that women are more visible in the workfront these days that it may not be fair to say that the working mother is the primary caretaker.

This may explain why courts are not quick to apply the tender years doctrine especially when the father puts up a strong opposition to the mother’s preference. We have seen mothers deprived of their young children and more and more fathers given equal parenting time. But with older children, we often hear that perhaps the child has to make that choice who to live with. The question is: should the child even be given that choice?

When all the dust has settled and the wounds of a separation have turned into scars, a very thoughtful parent will tell you that making a child choose between two parents is like putting a child in the middle of a gunfight between the U.S. troops and Iraqi forces. There is no real victory after that crucial choice is made by the child. Any parent who is about to use a child or the children as pawns in the ongoing battle against an ex may well be reminded that:

  • Children have a right to be with both parents.
  • The child did not have a choice who to be born to, he/she should not be made to choose between the two.
  • Children are too young to make difficult life changing decisions such as parental choices. Some things are best left to the parents who are presumed to know what’s best for the children.
  • Choosing one parent over the other exposes the child to untold emotional and psychological suffering as the choice may lead one parent to reject the child or cause the child to experience feelings of guilt.
  • The separation is not the child’s fault. Making the child choose passes the fight between parents to the child’s corner.
  • Even if a child is vocal about his preference, a parent who is genuinely after the best interests of a child will admit that the child stands to benefit from the maintenance of close family ties with both parents.