The opinion of a child approaching adulthood cannot simply be disregarded in any court proceedings affecting an adolescent’s life. The Constitutional Court (CC) stressed this in a custody case on Tuesday.
At the same time, the judges acknowledged that a teenager could change their views on which parent is more suitable for them. But that, the verdict said, is part of the process of a teenager learning to take the consequences of their decisions.
The Senate, with Judge David Uhlir as rapporteur, dealt with the case of a 14-year-old boy. The boy had been in his mother’s care since childhood, but he decided to stay with his father this February after a weekend visit. The boy then confirmed his wishes, including transferring to a primary school in the place of his father’s residence, during a consultation with the child welfare authorities.
The District Court for Prague 9 respected his decision with an interim measure, and the boy even communicated with the court himself. However, the Municipal Court then overturned the lower court’s decision without ascertaining the child’s opinion, stating that the boy’s opinion did not constitute a fundamental guideline for adjusting his circumstances by the interim measure. Therefore, the boy himself appealed to the Constitutional Court. He is still living with his father and studying there at a new primary school.
The Constitutional Court judges agreed with the boy. They pointed out that in proceedings concerning the care of a child approaching the age of majority, it is not possible to proceed in such a way that the opinion of a young person does not weigh on the public authorities.
The courts must respect the young person’s opinion
“In a few months, the complainant will be competent in employment matters, albeit with some limitations. He will be criminally liable under a particular law. He can legally commence training for a pilot’s license and obtain a motorcycle license.
The Constitutional Court stressed that the opinion of a child approaching adulthood could not be disregarded in any proceedings before the general courts concerning decisions about their life.
The courts are required to respect the young person’s opinion, mainly if the young person can express their opinion on their best interests and perceive the consequences, the minor has no educational problems, and both parents’ ability to provide for their care is essentially equal. This is precisely what happened in the present case,” Uhlíř pointed out.
According to the Constitutional Court judge, it must also be taken into account that the opinion of an adolescent young person may change over time.
“However, approaching adulthood also brings the young person’s responsibility for the consequences of their bad decisions. The Constitutional Court points out that the complainant, as a young person, cannot be ‘pacified’ by one of his parents.
The previously correct decision to entrust a minor to the care of one of his parents cannot be enforced by force if the young person has strongly expressed that he does not wish to do so,” the judges added.