Can Children Express Preference in New York Custody Proceedings?

Can Children Express Preference in New York Custody Proceedings?

Sad little boy and his quarreling parents at home

The decision to end a marriage, particularly when children are involved, is never easy. One of the most challenging aspects of any divorce is determining which parent will have primary custody of the children. If parents can’t resolve custody matters outside of court, a judge must decide who gets custody of the child. Many parents are unprepared and fear the prospect of living without their children full-time. As such, it’s essential to understand the variables that affect child custody cases and what you can do to maximize your chances of a positive outcome for your children. Please continue reading to learn whether the court will consider a child’s preference during custody proceedings and why connecting with an experienced Nassau County Child Custody Attorney is in your best interest. 

What Factors Influence New York Custody Decisions?

If you can’t agree on your parenting responsibilities and visitation time, a judge will have to decide. When establishing custody rights, the judge will consider several factors, the most crucial of which is what is in a child’s best interest. These factors include:

  • The age and number of children
  • The parent-child relationship
  • Who was the primary caregiver
  • Each parent’s fitness and ability to provide for the child
  • Each parent’s income and earning capacity
  • Each parent’s standard of living
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The geographical proximity of the parent’s homes from each other
  • The child’s preference (if of sufficient age)
  • Any history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
  • Any history of substance abuse issues
  • Any other relevant factors

Do Courts Consider a Child’s Preference in Custody Determinations?

When deciding custody in New York, a judge can evaluate any factors that they deem relevant. Therefore, if a judge considers a child mature enough to express their opinion about which parent they want to live with, they can consider a child’s preference. However, when a child expresses a custody preference, a judge is not legally bound by the child’s wishes. A child’s parental preference can be considered at any age, but the court places more significance on the pretense of older teenagers. This is because younger children tend to have immature values that can cause them to choose a parent based on superficial reasons. Additionally, younger children are at risk of being easily manipulated by a parent to express specific preferences.

Nevertheless, even though a judge may consider a child’s stated preference, the court will not base a custody decision solely on the child’s opinion. The judge will consider it along with all the other factors relevant to custody. The court must also determine whether the child is making an intelligent decision or is rebelling against the current custodial parent. They will investigate whether a parent is unfairly influencing the child to express an opinion as they want to ensure the child’s best interest.

If you are facing a custody battle in New York, please don’t hesitate to contact a compassionate attorney from The Pollack Law Firm, P.C., who can help you secure the best outcome for your child.

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