There are many factors that New York courts consider when deciding on a custody schedule that is in a child’s best interest. One of these factors is the child’s wishes.
This factor may be minor when a child is young and cannot properly express what they want. But as a child gets older this factor becomes more important. A common myth is that when a child reaches a certain age, they can choose their own custody schedule.
This is not necessarily true. Although as a child grows and matures, they typically become able to express their preference as to which parent they want to live with, their wishes alone do not determine custody.
A child’s wishes remain one of several factors that a court must examine. The overall goal is a custody arrangement that provides consistency, safety and stability for a child.
Additional custody factors
Other factors in addition to the wishes of a child include each parent’s ability to care foe the child, the amount of time each parent has available to spend with the child and the conditions of their home.
A parent’s history of drug or alcohol abuse and any history of child abuse or neglect are also considered.
During the custody process, an attorney for the child is sometimes appointed. The child usually tells their attorney their preference for custody.
Although a child may state they want to live with only one parent, the court still has the final say over the custody schedule.
It is true that as a child gets older, their custody preference is given more weight by a court. Generally, a 16-year-old can state their preferences better than a 6-year-old.
A child’s maturity level matters
There is no set age at which a child’s wishes are taken more seriously. Additionally, the child’s maturity and intellectual development are considered.
Sometimes a younger child is better able to express which parent they would like to live with versus a teenager, depending on maturity level. Therefore, you should not assume that as your child gets older, they will have more of a say in the decision.
A court also looks for signs that a parent has influenced a child’s preferences through their words or actions.
For example, if a child testifies that they want to live with their father, but additional testimony reveals that the child wants this because the father does not make them do homework and lets them stay up late, living with the father is likely not going to be in the child’s best interest.
Instead, this could be a sign that the father is doing these things to make the child want to live with them and gain custody.
How your child’s wishes affect your custody situation depends on the specific facts of your case. Putting a child in the middle of a custody dispute is never a good idea, so before you ask your child what they want, you should think about how it will impact their well-being.