Can a Child Decide Who to Live with in a Child Custody Case?
A common question people have when considering divorce is whether a child can decide where to live. In simple terms, a child is not vested with the power to decide where he or she wants to live. However, despite that basic principle, there are a variety of factors that come into play when it comes to a child’s input on where he or she wants to live in a child custody case.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
Even when a child has a position regarding where he or she wants to live in a custody case, the best interests of the child standard still governs. According to this standard, all child custody decisions must be made in the best interests of the child. Therefore, even if a child’s thoughts on custody and placement are going to be considered, this information alone is not determinative of the matter.
State Law Governs
State law governs the ability of a child to play a role in a custody proceeding. In other words, there is not federal law or uniform national rule regarding the role a child plays in custody proceedings.
Pennsylvania law does permit a judge to consider a child’s preferences in a child custody case. However, the child’s preferences is just one of the factors considered by the court in a child custody case, in evaluating what is in the best interests of the child.
Emotional Maturity of a Child
The emotional maturity of a child is a factor in considering a child’s wishes when it comes to custodial placement. Age alone is not the guideline used in evaluating a child’s position. For example, individual children mature differently from one another.
A younger and more emotionally mature child will be given greater deference than will an older and less emotionally mature child. In other words, a court considers the level of maturity of a minor child on a case by case basis.
Legal Assistance in a Child Custody Case
A parent facing a divorce involving child custody, or any other type of child custody case, is best served by engaging the services of an experienced lawyer. A skilled lawyer will be willing to schedule a no-obligation and no-cost initial consultation about physical and legal custody with a prospective client.