Can a Child Choose Which Parent Gets Custody in New Jersey?

Can a Child Choose Which Parent Gets Custody in New Jersey?

During the turmoil of a divorce, it is easy to lose sight of how your children are coping. One of the main reasons why this process is so painful for children is that it creates a sense of instability in their lives. In many cases, these children are reminded that life is completely uncontrollable. Most parents will agree that their children should have at least some measure of control as they end their relationship. So can a child choose which parents they want to live with?

Determining custody is a complicated process in the state of New Jersey. There are many factors that have to be taken into account, and it is not always about what the child wants. For the most part, judges strive to make a decision that promotes the child’s best interests. This is not always in line with what the child wants. After all, a child may want to eat chocolate and candy for weeks on end, but that is clearly an unhealthy and potentially harmful choice for them to make.

With all that said, judges in New Jersey do make a concerted effort to consider the wishes of the child. The preference of a child may indeed have a significant impact on custody proceedings. While this may be only one factor that a judge considers when determining custody, it is nonetheless an important one.

Age Matters

If you are wondering whether your child’s preferences will have an impact on your custody battle, you should first consider the age of your child. Generally speaking, an older child’s preferences will be taken more seriously by a judge in New Jersey. Depending on the age group of your child, the process of determining custody may be handled differently:

  • Children Under the Age of 8: According to New Jersey law, a child under the age of 8 is not capable of expressing a preference in the context of determining custody. That being said, a judge will likely still conduct a private interview with the child in order to ascertain their preferences. What this means is that the child will still have an impact on the outcome, although they will probably have a peripheral influence at best.
  • Children Between 8 and 17: If your child is older than eight but younger than 17, the judge will probably take a much more active interest in their preferences when determining custody. A judge’s interview with children in this age group will have a notable impact on their decision. Judges will often trust the testimony of these children when determining whether or not a parent is negligent or abusive. With all that said, a judge is not legally obligated to agree with their preferences.
  • Children Over the Age of 18: Children over the age of 18 can decide who they want to live with after their parent’s divorce. A judge is legally obligated to acquiesce to their wishes and grant custody to the parent they select.

Getting Legal Help

If you are seeking custody of your children, it is best to get help from a qualified family law attorney. Reach out to Giro, LLP, Attorneys at Law today, and we will help your child achieve stability in life.


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