Will a judge typically consider the child's wishes when determining custody?
UPDATED: February 8, 2020
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Courts consider a number of different factors in deciding child custody. Depending on the age of the child or children in question, the child's opinion may be one of those factors. However, it will not necessarily be a determining factor in who gets custody of a child.
Courts prefer to see parents create a child custody agreement on their own or with the help of a mediator that the court can then approve. When this is not possible, states have imposed guidelines for how a judge will determine child custody. While these laws differ from state to state, a best interests of the child standard is the widely accepted practice. Essentially, this means that a judge is going to decide custody of a child by what is best for the child in question.
There are a host of factors that go into deciding what is in the best interests of the child. The opinion of the child can be one of those factors if the child is old enough and has a preference for which parent he or she would like to live with. Normally, children over the age of 12 are considered to be old enough to have some say, although different states may have different age guidelines. However, children sometimes do not actually know what is in their own best interest. For example, a child might express a preference to stay with a parent who is more permissive, but this may not necessarily be best.
As such, the court also considers other things besides what the child is requesting. These factors include the current relationship of parent and child, the ability of the respective parents to provide a home that is supportive and meets all the child's needs, and the ability and willingness of the parent to allow the child to continue his relationship with the other parent and his ties to his community. Judges will look at all evidence presented, including testimony from parents, family friends, other witnesses, and sometimes a social worker or guardian ad litem appointed to review the situation and make a recommendation.
To prove that granting custody of a child to you is in a child's best interests, you will want to hire a competent divorce lawyer to assist you in gathering evidence and making a compelling argument to the court.