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Does a Child’s Preference Matter in a Custody Case?

Custody battles can be highly overwhelming for everyone involved. It is not uncommon for children to feel as though their voices are not heard during a divorce, but it is important to note that a child’s preference could be an instrumental factor in custody determinations.

If you are going through a child custody case, it is essential to understand how your child’s preference could impact your case. Speak with a skilled divorce attorney to learn more.

Child’s Preference in New Jersey Custody Cases

New Jersey courts base all custody decisions on the best interests of the child. State law lays out the different factors that go into determining custody and parenting time agreements in New Jersey Statutes Annotated Title 9 § 9:2-4. Under this statute, courts will consider:

  • The parents’ ability to agree and collaborate on matters related to the child
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • The child’s needs and safety
  • The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision
  • The stability of the environment offered by the parents
  • The quality and continuity of the child’s education
  • The fitness of the parents to exercise custody of the child
  • The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes
  • The extent and quality of the time spent with the child before or after the divorce
  • The parents’ employment responsibilities
  • The age and number of children

While many of these factors are out of a child’s control, there are also situations where the child could have some say over their custody arrangement. If the court deems that the child is of sufficient age and capacity to make decisions about custody, their preferences can be taken into consideration by the court. The weight given to a child’s preference is based on their level of maturity and age. Typically, the older the child, the more weight their decisions can have in court, but this varies on a case-by-case basis. For example, an older child may be found to be too immature to express a meaningful preference.

In Court, the judge may exercise their discretion to interview children and ask them questions about their home environment, relationship with each of their parents, and what their custodial preferences are. This information can be crucial in helping the judge form a final decision. Even if the judge does not interview a child, their preferences may be indirectly taken under consideration based on what they have expressed to any expert custody evaluators that have worked on the case.

Discuss Child Preference with a Skilled Custody Attorney

It is important to understand how your child’s testimony in court or what they tell a custody expert could impact your custody and parenting time agreements, seeing as the preference of a child can be weighed quite heavily in certain cases. If you are pursuing a divorce or any other kind of case that involves custody determinations, be sure to move forward with the help of a knowledgeable divorce and child custody attorney. The legal professionals at Moskowitz Law Group can help ensure you and your children reach the best possible outcome. Schedule a free consultation today to get started.

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