Unlike some states, Pennsylvania law does not designate an age in which a child’s parental preferences will be taken into consideration in custody disputes. This means that a child’s parental preference may be considered by the judge presiding over your case at any age.
Officially, children cannot decide which parent they want to live with until they reach age 18. With that being said, depending on the maturity of the child and their reasoning, children under age 18 may still have a voice in custody proceedings.
Are The Preferences Of Older Children More Likely To Be Considered?
The court will generally give more weight to the preferences of older children — but not always. The law reads as follows:
“The weight to be accorded a child’s preference varies with the age, maturity and intelligence of that child, together with the reasons given for the preference. Moreover, as children grow older, more weight must be given to the preference of the child.” Wheeler v. Mazur, 793 A.2d 929 (Pa. Super. 2002).
While older children are usually more able to articulate their wishes and explain why they would prefer one parent over the other, even younger children’s preferences will be given some consideration by the court.
Child preference is just one factor that courts will consider when making a custody determination. The ultimate goal is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child, and all factors — including child preference — will be taken into account by the judge in order to achieve this goal.
Your Child’s Preference Is Only One Part Of The Custody Equation
There are a variety of factors that judges will consider when making a custody determination, and child preference is just one of them. Other considerations include the parents’ wishes, the child’s educational, family, and community stability, each parent’s availability to care for the child, and any history of abuse from either parent.
It is critical that parents understand their rights and responsibilities in custody proceedings. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the complexities of custody cases and make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.