Child custody arrangements can be challenging to navigate, and getting both parties to agree to a proposed arrangement can be one of the most emotionally charged parts of the divorce process. The two parents may not agree on what is in the best interests of their child, which could cause an emotional dispute.
Sometimes, however, a child may wish to be involved in conversations regarding child custody. What happens if your child has a preference regarding which parent they would like to live with? Will the court take that into consideration when determining a custody arrangement? Let’s take a look at how the court takes your child’s preferences into consideration.
How Does A Court Determine Child Custody?
It is the court’s responsibility to allocate parenting time and that includes determining which parent the child will primarily live with. Child custody can be broken down into two separate categories: legal custody and physical custody. While legal custody entitles parents to make important decisions about their child (including medical and educational decisions, among others), physical custody designates which parent the child will live with.
Judges will take many factors into consideration when they are making decisions about child custody, such as:
- Each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s aptitude for parenting
- Both parents’ willingness to cooperate and share custody
- Each parent’s job situation and ability to provide for the child
- Each parent’s relationship with their child
- Age, sex, and wellbeing of the child
- Number of children in the family, as well as their ages
At What Age Is A Child’s Preference Taken Into Account?
In Maryland, a court will take the child’s preference into account when they are 16 years old. Once a child reaches the age of 16, they also have the right to petition for the custody arrangement to be altered.
The court will continue to consider all of the aforementioned factors when making a final decision, but once a child is 16, they are permitted to have a say in where they live. If the court believes that altering the custody arrangement is not in the child’s best interests based on other factors, such as parenting abilities or a parent’s financial situation, then the court may rule against the child’s wishes.
Will The Court Consider The Child’s Preference If They Are Under 16 Years Old?
If a child is under the age of 16, then the court might consider their preference on a case-by-case basis. The court will take the child’s age and level of maturity into account when deciding whether to allow the child a say in the custody agreement.
The issue that many judges have with allowing the child to have a say is that children under 16 may not be emotionally equipped to deal with the pressure that this would place on them. To avoid this while still taking the child’s preferences into account, the court may assign an attorney to represent the child in court.
Will The Child Have To Testify?
In Maryland, family courts do allow children to testify with their parents present on a case-by-case basis. The child is also permitted to testify directly to the judge without their parents present. While the judge will listen to the child’s wishes, the judge’s ultimate responsibility is to protect the best interests of the child, and that will always be the top priority when a judge is determining child custody.
Contact A Maryland Family Lawyer
If you require assistance or legal counsel regarding your child custody arrangement, contact our Bethesda child custody attorneys at The McKeon Law Firm today. Reach out to us at (301) 417-9222 or online today for a confidential consultation about your situation and your legal options.