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Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With in New Jersey?

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If you are going through a custody battle in New Jersey, you may be wondering if your child has a say in which parent they will live with. Continue reading to learn more and reach out to our skilled firm today. Our Somerset County child custody attorney is on your side.

How old must a child be to have a say in child custody?

Keep in mind that all states permit judges to assess the preference of a child in a custody matter, as long as they deem that child sufficiently mature. It is critical to note that most states do not establish a certain age, including New Jersey. Because of this, judges are able to make their own case-by-case judgments based on a child’s maturity level.

How does a child’s opinion work into custody determinations?

Keep in mind that a New Jersey judge never has to grant custody in accord with a child’s wishes if he or she believes that it would not benefit the child. This means that other factors, including each parent’s criminal history and bond with the child, are always considered.

Also, a judge will try and assess whether a child’s preference for one parent is because of the persuasion or leniency of that parent, which would provide the choice less of a basis from the court’s perspective.

For example, a 14-year-old may not get to live with her mom as she wishes if evidence shows the mother lets her drive without a license. On the other hand, a 12-year-old with concrete reasons for choosing a proper parent could have an adequate influence on a judge’s determination.

How do children share these opinions?

Children typically do not express their choices in court because the conditions can be emotional and scary.

Instead, they normally share their thoughts in conversation with the judge, a custody evaluator, or someone appointed by the court to represent their interests (like a guardian ad litem).

Interviews with the judge will occur in the judge’s office and are therefore referred to as in-chambers or in-camera hearings. In this case, a court reporter and the child’s legal representative are in attendance. In some cases, the parents’ attorneys are also allowed in the room, but not the parents.

Some judges ask the child directly who they would like to live with, while others only ask related questions like, “what do you do for fun with your dad?” In some circumstances, both parents must agree before the child may speak with a judge. Give our firm a call today to learn more. Our skilled Somerset County family law attorney is on your side.

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If you require experienced legal representation for a matter of Family Law, Supplemental Security Income, Medical Malpractice, Social Security Disability, or Legal Malpractice, Siragusa Law Firm is here to help. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation so we can discuss your case.

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