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Philadelphia Family Lawyer > Blog > Child Custody > Does a Child’s Preference Matter in a Pennsylvania Custody Dispute?

Does a Child’s Preference Matter in a Pennsylvania Custody Dispute?


Child custody disputes are among the most contentious issues in a divorce. You may be wondering whether or not your child’s preference matters to the court when it comes to deciding who they will live with. The answer is that it depends. In Pennsylvania, child custody is determined based on 16 discrete factors that the court considers when making a determination of child custody. One of these factors includes “the well-reasoned preference of the child, based upon the child’s maturity and judgment.” No one individual factor will determine custody in a divorce case. Judges look at all of these factors together when making a decision regarding the best interests of the child. So, a child’s preference is one factor that a judge can consider when rendering a decision on child custody, but it is not the only factor.

Judges will generally consider the child’s preference in custody matters 

Assuming that the child is old enough to render an informed decision, judges will almost always consider the preference of the child when deciding custody matters. How much weight they attach to the child’s preference will depend on the age and maturity of the child. Further, the child’s reasoning will be scrutinized by the court to ensure that the child is making a decision that is actually in their best interests as opposed to being merely what they want.

In Pennsylvania, a child is not considered an adult until they reach the age of 18 and graduate from high school. Children have no control over the decision concerning which parent they will live with. The court will, however, take the child’s preference into consideration when rendering their decision. It is one of the factors the court must review in a child custody case. The court does not recognize a set age when the child’s preference becomes applicable. Greater weight, however, is placed on older children who are considered more intelligent and better able to articulate their feelings. Pennsylvania courts will scrutinize the reasoning of the child when rendering a decision. In other words, the courts will ensure that the child is making the decision based on good reasons. Courts are more likely to weigh the decision heavier when the child’s decision is based on mature reasoning as opposed to an impulsive decision. A child who makes an emotional decision or a decision based on the belief that they will be rewarded for choosing one parent or the other will not be afforded much, if any, weight by the court.

The child’s preference will not be the sole determining factor in a custody dispute. But when all other factors are equal, the child’s preference can tip the scales in one direction or the other. This is especially true when the parent’s households are considered equally suitable by the court.

Talk to a Philadelphia, PA Child Custody Attorney Today 

The Law Offices of Lauren H. Kane represent the interests of divorcing Philadelphia residents. Call our Philadelphia family lawyers today to learn more about our services and we can begin addressing your concerns right away.

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