Do Children Have a Say in Child Custody Cases?
When parents get a divorce, it is not uncommon for their children to state a preference about which parent they would most likely to live with afterwards. For some, hearing this news is devastating, while for their spouse it brings the hope they need during the divorce process. In either case, both parents want to know if a child’s preference is taken into consideration during child custody cases. Like in most legal situations, the answer is that it depends.
When a Child’s Preference is Taken Into Consideration
Some states have minimum ages for taking a child’s age into consideration if they have a preference of which parent they live with. The court will consider the child’s maturity level, age, intelligence, and the reason the child wants to live with a certain parent.
The reasoning a child gives for wanting to live with one parent instead of the other is given consideration when a judge is making a decision on child custody matters. For example, if the child only wants to live with one parent because they have very relaxed rules and very little rules to follow, a judge will likely not take the child’s preference into consideration.
It is important to understand that no matter the child’s age, intelligence, maturity level, or reason for wanting to live with one parent, their preference is not the determining factor in child custody cases. Instead, it is only one factor a judge will consider. In certain situations though, a child’s preference may be enough to tip the scales in favor of one parent over the other.
A Child’s Testimony
Many parents become greatly concerned upon hearing that a child has a preference and will have to testify in front of a judge. However, the courts understand how testifying in a courtroom can negatively impact children and so, they will often offer different solutions.
Most often, a child will testify in the judge’s chambers without either parent present so that he or she can testify freely without fear of retaliation by either parent after hearing the child’s testimony.
Our Pennsylvania and New Jersey Family Lawyer can Help with Your Custody Case
Child custody issues are some of the most contentious in any divorce case, and learning that your child has a preference can make it even more complex. If you are getting a divorce and are worried about custody, call our Philadelphia family lawyer at the Law Offices of Lauren H. Kane. We understand the factors judges take into consideration when making custody decisions, and can explain how these will affect your case. When you need to ensure your best interests are protected, call us at (215) 918-9453 to schedule a meeting with our knowledgeable attorney.