During any child custody case, a child may be vocal about which parent they want to live with and when they want to visit with the other parent. But how much of an impact do the child’s wishes have on the final decision a judge will make?
In every custody case, the ultimate goal the court is looking to reach is what arrangement will be in the best interest of the child. There are several factors, which you may want to discuss with a child custody lawyer Rockville, MD trusts, that the court will examine when making that determination and one of those factors is usually what the child’s wishes are. Other factors can include:
- The ability of each parent to care for the child
- Any physical or emotional issues with either parent
- Any physical or emotional issues with the child
- Which parent will put the needs of the child first
- Parenting agreement made between the parties during divorce negotiations
- Any history or evidence of domestic or other types of abuse
How Much Weight Will Be Given to the Child’s Wishes?
The answer to that question often depends on the age and maturity level of the child. For example, the wishes of a child who is 13 years of age will be given stronger consideration than the wishes of a child who is 5 years of age.
The court will also take into consideration the emotional state of the child. It is well known that when parents divorcing often makes a child angry, hurt, and confused. They often take these emotions out on one parent over the other. A child may tell the judge that they hate one of their parent and never want to see them again, but it is very unlikely – unless there are serious circumstances such as abuse – that would convince a judge to go along with the child’s wishes.
A judge will also look for signs that the child is being manipulated by the one parent or if there are signs of parental alienation syndrome (PAS). In cases like this, it can backfire on the parent and the court will award the other parent custody.
On the other hand, if the child is attending a school that can only be attended if they live with one parent and the child does not want to leave the school, the judge would likely take that into consideration in his or her decision.
Will the Child Have to Testify?
Although the final decision on testifying is up to the judge, many of them realize that the experience of testifying can be a frightening one for a child. It can also leave a child feeling as if they have to choose sides. There is also the added trauma of being questioned by attorneys for both parents. Instead of testifying in open court, the judge will likely have a conversation with the child in their chambers. Another option the judge may use is to have the child talk with a child therapist, who will then testify in court as to what the child said.
Thank you to our contributors at The Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight in child custody laws.