Written By: Brandy Miller | November 15, 2016 | No Comments

In Pennsylvania, the basis of custody decisions is made on the best interest of the child. In cases where a child is older, a child may also be consulted as to their preferences. In general, a child may be consulted if:

  • They are older
  • They have a higher maturity level
  • They have the intellectual capacity to make an informed choice

An older child with a serious condition affecting their maturity level or intellectual ability may not be consulted. A younger child with a higher maturity level, on the other hand, may be consulted. In general, if a child will be asked about their preferences, a judge will speak to the child in an office rather than having a child appear formally before the court. If a custody situation proceeds to a hearing, the judge may decide to speak to the child and may ask the child where they would like to live.

Even in cases where a child is asked, it’s important to keep in mind custody is not a popularity contest. Even if the child feels strongly about which parent they would like to live with, ultimately the courts and judges will determine custody based on child’s best interest. A child’s preferences and decisions will not matter as much as what is best for the child.

How Much Do a Child’s Preferences Matter?

Even if a child states a clear preference for one parent, a judge may determine a child is best served by living with another parent. A number of issues need to be taken into consideration in custody — including each parent’s relationship with the child, financial ability to care for child and the child’s education and well-being. Where feasible, a judge will try to place the child with the parent the child would prefer. However, the parent the child will prefer to live with may not be the parent best suited to care for the child.

The Challenges of a Child’s Opinions

In many cases, it can be upsetting for a child to be asked to make choices about custody arrangements. Sometimes, a child feels trapped between two parents or may feel they are being asked to “choose” one parent. In these situations, it is important to protect the child or children involved by ensuring the most amicable and smooth divorce proceeding possible.

A child may also not understand what is best for them. They may want to live with one parent and may not understand the full impact of custody or may not understand why a parent is not able to care for them. These are some of the reasons why child preferences alone are not used to determine custody.
If you’re getting divorced in Berks County or the Reading region in Pennsylvania, contact Miller Law Group to speak to one of our family law practice attorneys. If children are involved, especially, consulting an attorney early insures you can do everything possible to protect yourself and your children. Attorneys at Miller Law Group understand divorce proceedings can be a challenging time for everyone involved, and we always respond to inquiries and client calls within 24 hours, or the next business day. We treat each client with care, and we understand how to speak with children involved in divorce proceedings in a gentle and professional manner, putting them at ease.