Will a Court Consider a Child’s Preference Regarding Custody?

Posted July 4th, 2024.

Categories: Blog.

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New Jersey child custody laws are designed to ensure the best interests of the child or children involved. Parents who are going through a divorce are often involved in emotional and turbulent disagreements, particularly regarding their children. Although young and sometimes confused by the new changes a divorce brings, many people believe children should have a say in the outcome of their custody. NJ courts will consider a child’s preference when deciding custody depending on certain factors. If you are concerned about the outcome of your child custody dispute speak with a Cherry Hill child custody attorney to acquire skilled representation and ensure your rights and the rights of your child are protected.

How is Child Custody Determined in New Jersey?

Child custody is an important matter and a court will examine a wide array of information before making any final decision. First, information about the following will be collected and evaluated.

  • Each parent’s employment status and income
  • Where each parent lives and their housing situation
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • Each parent’s physical and mental well-being and age
  • Any history of domestic violence, abandonment, substance abuse, etc. on the part of either parent
  • Which parent was previously the child’s primary caregiver
  • The child’s preference

Once this information is examined it will be decided which parent receives which rights to custody. A parent can be awarded physical or legal custody of the child, or some combination of the two.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If the parents are given equal physical custody then the child will stay with both parents for an equal amount of time during the year. Legal custody entails making decisions regarding the child’s well-being including their education, religion, and medical decisions. One parent may be given sole legal custody and have final say, or the parents may both have the right to contribute to these choices.

Do Courts Take into Account the Child’s Preference?

There are many important factors to consider when deciding on a custody arrangement for a family. The decision is an important one so the above various information is vital in ensuring that the best interests of the child are prioritized. It would seem unjust to not take into consideration the desires of the child, seeing as this decision will arguably impact them more than anyone else. A child’s wishes are valid and will be considered in a New Jersey family court, under certain circumstances.

It is left up to the court’s discretion whether or not they will hear the child’s preference and how much weight it will carry. The court must deem the child old enough and/or mature enough to voice a reasonable and thought-out opinion of with whom they would like to live. The older the child is the more seriously their preference will be considered. This is largely because an older child likely has a better understanding of the reality of the situation and is aware enough to make an informed decision. A court must also consider whether or not the child’s choice is being influenced by one parent’s coaching or coercion.

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