When the courts attempts to craft a custody order, it's a common argument amongst parents that their children prefer to live with them as opposed to the other parent. They often buy into the misconception that once a child reaches a certain age and level of maturity, their child will wield the power to single-handedly make such a crucial decision. These assumptions beg the question: are Pennsylvania courts likely to consider a child's preference for one parent over the other?
The simple answer is “possibly.” Firstly, the law doesn't reference a concrete age in which a child's preference becomes more important. So, while some states distinguish the ages of 12 to 14, Pennsylvania does not. This could mean that judges will strongly consider a child's wishes regardless of age. Regardless, in all Pennsylvania child custody cases, the judge has absolute discretion.
State law does, however, address sixteen factors that a court will assess when deciding the issue of custody, and “the well-reasoned preference of the child,” is one of them. If there is a change in a living situation based on a child's preference, his or her's age, maturity, intelligence, and ability to reason will be evaluated at the forefront. Because of the obvious pressure there is to admit a preference in front of both parents, a child will be allowed to make an admission to the judge in his or her chambers and with each parent's attorneys present in the room.
Much of the custody decision still rests on the circumstances of the parents. Courts will always assess their living situations, employment history, geographic locations, impending plans to relocate, a history of substance of abuse or violence, etc. Pennsylvania law doesn't stray far from other child custody laws in other states in this regard.
Overall, a custody court is not going to let a child decide where he or she will be living. The court will always ultimately decide a custody arrangement. If you're contemplating about whether or not you should bring your child to a court hearing, you should consult with an attorney.
Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney
With all of the things to consider in a child custody case, predicting an outcome is impossible. This is why it's important that you retain a qualified family law attorney who has extensive knowledge of the state's process and has helped families get an arrangement that reflects the best interest of their child. To ensure your parental rights are protected, and your contributions are considered, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.