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Can courts consider a child’s choice in custody cases?

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2023 | FAMILY LAW - Child Custody

Custody determination is nerve-wracking for parents who simply want the best for their children. However, it is equally as stressful for children. Accordingly, getting them involved can be an effective way to comfort them.

But let’s say, during the process of getting them involved, your child voices out their preference on who they want to live with. Can the courts use this information to form a custody decision?

Only under certain circumstances

Under New Jersey custody laws, courts can consider the child’s preference when determining custody arrangements only when they are of sufficient age and are already capable of reasoning and making intelligent decisions.

What qualifies as “sufficient age” and “capacity to reason”? Since the law does not specifically define these concepts, courts have the discretion to evaluate and decide whether a child passes these qualifications.

Only one of the many factors

When the court considers a child’s preference during its custody determination, it will do so simultaneously with other relevant factors, such as the parents’ willingness to accept custody and the child’s relationship with each parent. The court does not necessarily have to follow the child’s wishes, but merely use it as a guide.

Ultimately, the judge will choose a custody arrangement that will serve the child’s best interests.

Set expectations with available resources

As a parent, you would say that you know what is best for your child. However, the judge handling your case may disagree. Nonetheless, even if you and the judge have differing opinions, you can set your expectations on your custody case by understanding how courts come to their decisions. You can use various resources, such as your state’s custody law guides and an experienced attorney, to help you reach your goals.