Will the Judge Consider a Child’s Preference in New Jersey?

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Unfortunately, when going through a divorce, the children you and your spouse share can also be greatly impacted. In some instances, it can be challenging to determine child custody, especially if the child is vocal about their preference of where they would like to spend the majority of their time. When undergoing a custody battle, it’s vital that you enlist the help of a Bergen County, New Jersey child custody lawyer is vital to help secure the best outcome for your child. Keep reading to learn how much weight the child’s preference holds when determining custody.

When Will a Judge consider a Child’s Preference?

To determine child custody, the judge will almost always start with an unbiased split, as 50/50 custody is preferred to give the child the best opportunity to spend time with each parent. However, there are several factors that a judge will take into consideration when awarding custody of a child. This includes the following:

  • The ability of both parents to provide a safe environment for the child
  • How much income each parent makes
  • The location of each parent’s home about the child’s school and activities
  • Any abuse or neglect allegations a parent has faced

However, if the circumstances allow, the child may be allowed to speak to the judge about their preference of where to live. Generally, if the courts deem the child mature enough to express their opinion, they will consider it.

It is essential to note that judges are not under any obligation to fulfill the wishes of the child if the court deems it outside of the child’s best interest. For example, if a 12-year-old wants to live with his father because his mother tends to be more strict in terms of ensuring he fulfills schoolwork, the court may not grant his wish. But if a 9-year-old provides a legitimate reason, like fear of abuse, their preference will likely hold a significant amount of weight in the determination of custody.

How Can a Child Share Their Opinion?

Generally, children will not speak in court as it can be intimidating. Instead, they will likely meet with the judge in the chambers, as it provides a quieter, more comfortable environment. Typically, a court reporter and the child’s legal representative will be allowed in the room. Parents are usually not allowed to be present for fear they may sway the child’s answers.

The judge conducting the discussion with the child will likely ask several questions, ranging from their favorite ways to spend time with each parent to directly asking their preference of where they would like to live.

If you are going through a divorce, understanding how your child’s preference will impact custody is essential. While you want your child to have a say, it may not be in their best interest to spend time with the other parent. Putting the best interest of your child above all else is essential, so you’ll need the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate these issues. At HD Family Law, we have the experience you need to help you navigate this challenging time. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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