A Child’S Preference And Pennsylvania’S Custody Law

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When the court attempts to fashion a custody order parents often try to argue for more custodial time by insisting that the child/children prefers to live with them as opposed to the other parent. This begs the question; is a court in Pennsylvania likely to consider a child’s preference for one parent over the other?

The short answer is ‘maybe’. In Pennsylvania there are sixteen factors that a court will examine when deciding the issue of custody. One of these factors is “the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment”. Generally speaking, the older a child is and therefore the more capable they are of articulating a reason as to why they would prefer to live with one parent over the other, or why they’d like more time with one parent, the more likely the court is to take the child’s preference into consideration. But there is no hard and fast rule that a judge has to talk to the child/children. Keep in mind that the courtroom can be a scary place for a young child and if a judge does not have to bring the child into the courtroom they’d really rather not. A safe rule of thumb is that the older the child, the more weight a court may give that child’s preference. For example, a judge is not going to give a lot of weight to the preference of a five year old and more likely than not, will not talk to the child, but a judge is likely to give more weight to the preference of a fourteen year old and is more likely to talk to an older child.

Having said all this, a custody court is not going to let a child decide where he or she will be living. It is the court that decides custody. If you’re wondering whether or not you should bring your child to a particular court hearing you should consult your attorney. If you’re litigating custody or have concerns regarding a current custody order or arrangement our office of experienced family law attorneys can help. Contact our office to set up a consultation appointment to speak with one of our attorneys.