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Can a child’s opinion influence the outcome of a Pennsylvania custody case?

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2024 | Custody

When parents divorce or break up, they usually need to find a way to share custody. Doing so can prove to be more challenging than people initially anticipate. Parents may find themselves fighting bitterly over time with their children, and sometimes even the children become involved in the matter. Children may take the side of one parent either due to pressure applied by that adult or the state of their relationships with their parents.

A parent currently experiencing a difficult time in their relationship with one of their children may worry that their child might seek to testify in court and ask to live with the other parent instead of embracing a shared custody arrangement.

Can a teenager or young adult’s preferences determine what happens in a Pennsylvania custody case?

A judge may consider a child’s preferences

Unlike some states, which have a certain age after which a child’s preferences carry weight, Pennsylvania’s current custody statute is more open to interpretation. A judge must agree that their preferences are well-reasoned and come from a place of maturity. The reasoning behind their preferences and overall maturity level can influence how much weight a judge gives their wishes.

If a young adult hopes to spend copious amounts of time with one parent because they don’t impose a curfew or restrict their access to video games, a judge is unlikely to give much weight to that preference. However, if one parent has a hostile attitude toward a child or otherwise mistreats them, the child’s decision to voice a preference inspired by that conduct could affect the outcome of custody proceedings.

Even then, the child’s wishes are only one of many considerations that a judge should evaluate when deciding how to divide parental rights and responsibilities in a litigated custody scenario. Judges largely recognize that young adults are not necessarily mature decision-makers.

They also understand that relationships between parents and children ebb and flow over time. Requiring that children spend time with both parents even when they have a difficult time in their relationship is common practice. Parents should not let fear about the current status of their relationship keep them from seeking shared custody.

Learning more about the Pennsylvania approach to custody matters can help parents feel empowered while preparing for family court.