SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill is making its way to Gov. Gary Herbert that lowers the age in which a child's opinion can be considered in custody hearings.
The House of Representatives gave the proposal its final approval on Thursday morning lowering the age limit in Utah from 16 years old to 14 years old. A child expressing his opinion does not necessarily mean he will receive the desired outcome, but it does give stronger voice to a minor in the hearings.
"The important thing to know is all this is doing is giving at least some hope in certain cases," said Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, the House sponsor of the legislation. "Right now you could be 14 or 15 and not have any voice whatsoever, zero."
As the bill has progressed through the Legislature concerns have been brought up that a child might be influenced by one of the parents in the hearings. That concern was put to rest as the bill was amended in the Senate to make certain the judge in the hearing has the final say on the placement of the child.
Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, pointed out in the House debate that Utah's marriage age is 15 years old. She noted that if the state had decided that a 15-year-old is mature enough to decide on marriage then a 15-year-old's opinion in a custody hearing should be given consideration.
The bill passed unanimously out of the House.