Considering the Child's Wishes When Determining Child Custody

Information About the Court's Consideration of a Child's Wishes

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Question: How much weight does the child's wishes have on whether or not the court grants custody to a parent?

The short answer is it depends. Some courts will consider the child's wishes to be a determinative factor for a child custody determination. However, for the most part, a child's preference is not considered as a significant factor. Here is more information about a court's decision on whether to consider a child's wishes during a child custody case:

Factors Considered Regarding the Child's Wishes and Child Custody

During a child custody hearing, a court may decide to hear the testimony of a child to assist in the court's ruling of a child custody hearing. In considering the child's wishes, using the best interests of the child standard, a court will consider the following factors:

  • Child's age
  • Child's maturity
  • Child's ability to make an informed, reasonable decision

In deciding how much weight to put on a child's wishes, a court will consider the following factors prior to making a child custody decision:

Domestic Violence

When a parent has been accused or convicted of domestic violence, a child may not wish to reside with the parent, especially if the child witnessed or was the victim of the domestic violence. In instances of domestic violence, a court will most likely consider the child's wishes as a significant factor in determining whether or not a parent should get custody of a child.

Lack of a Relationship

Courts may hear the child's testimony through a guardian ad litem about the child's relationship with the parents. Although, courts will consider lack of a relationship as evidence of a child's desire to reside with one parent over the other, most courts will allow a parent an opportunity to heal the relationship with the child in spite of past issues.

Siblings in Primary Parent's Home

A court may hear a child's testimony about preference to reside with one parent if a child doesn't want to spend time away from his/her siblings. A court may determine that it is in the child's best interests to be with his/her siblings.

Despite the information mentioned above, a child's preference rarely has significant weight, as most courts allow a parent the opportunity to form a significant relationship with a child, in spite of the past. For more information about the best interests of a child, refer to child custody guidelines about your state or speak to a qualified attorney in your state.