In child custody cases, the court makes a determination about who children will live with after their parents divorce or legally separate, and for what percentage of the time. The judge’s foremost concern is making a decision in the best interest of the child. However, judges are often interested in using as many factors as possible to make this decision, which may include child preferences.

This article will address the question of can a child decide who to live with during child custody cases and how to avoid a heated custody battle for the best interests of the child.

How Does a Judge Determine Who Gets Custody?

In New York, neither parent has an automatic preferred right to child custody of shared children. Without a custody order, either parent may keep the children, but a judge must decide what is in the best interest of the child if the matter goes to court.

Factors that a judge will consider include the parents’ ages, availability, alcohol and drug use, finances, health, and home environment that each can provide. Other child custody considerations are any history of child abuse, the mental and emotional stability of parents, and the parents’ behaviors in court. Children’s preferences may be taken into account as well.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

It’s important to remember that unless a child is 18 years of age, his or her preference is not a guarantee of which parent custody will be awarded to. In fact, judges often only consider child preference at all if the child is deemed to be old and mature enough to give an opinion on the matter. Some states require child preference to be considered, while others don’t. New York judges often take child preference into account as one of many factors to be considered during a custody battle.

At What Age Will a Court Listen to a Child?

In New York, child preference is always important, regardless of whether the child is five, 10, or 17 years old. These preferences will not fall upon deaf ears in court; however, a local judge may give this factor more weight than other factors for more mature children because they tend to be less easily manipulated by their parents. Young children are often easily influenced by parents who bribe them or make enticing promises for the future to sway their opinions of one parent over the other.

The process of listening to a child’s preferences often involves the judge talking privately with the child, rather than in open court. The parents likely won’t be present for the discussion of the child’s preferences, but their attorneys may be.

Avoid a Child Custody Battle with Experienced Legal Help

Alatsas Law Firm is experienced with many types of child custody cases and cares about what children have to say about where they will live and be cared for. Based on the best interest of the child, we will help you pursue sole custody, joint custody, physical custody, or legal custody to facilitate an agreement that all involved parties can be satisfied with.

Please contact us at 718-233-2903 or via online form for a free consultation and to learn more about how a judge may determine who gets custody in your particular circumstance. We look forward to serving you in Breezy Point, Jamaica, Rockaway Park, Howard Beach, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Arverne, South Ozone Park, New York, South Richmond Hill, Middle Village, Maspeth, Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Sunnyside, Kings County, New York County, Queens County, and Richmond County.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection