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What role does a child’s preference play in child custody?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Divorce

For a child, their parents’ divorce can be a worrisome time as they prepare to adapt to the new situation. That might mean a different residence, a new school and adjusting to not seeing both parents as regularly as they once did.

In some instances, the child can take part in the decision as to where they will live. Knowing when the child’s preferences will be granted weight is important for the parents as the case proceeds as it will have a significant impact on them as well as the child.

The law allows for the child’s preferences to be considered

The child can express their preference for where they will live. The court, however, can assess the child’s age and maturity before determining how much sway the child’s opinion will have. This does not necessarily mean an older child automatically gets to speak and the court will let them live where they want. The same is true for the court treating a younger child less seriously. The key is the child’s ability to express their desire in a clear and coherent manner.

The judge will also consider the consistency over time with what the child wants. There might be a history of the child expressing their reasonable preference with where they will live. There are myriad factors that could be part of the child’s statements at one time or another. Perhaps the child just spent an extended amount of time with the one parent and is making an emotional decision. It is up to the judge to determine what factors should take precedence.

Children can play a role in the custody determination

If a child understands what they are asking for, their opinion can be part of the child custody and parenting time process. Regardless of the situation, the most important part is that the child’s best interests are served. This will be the primary focus and both parents need to be prepared to show why the court should decide in their favor. To prepare for the case, it is useful to understand all areas of the child custody determination under family law.