Custody of the children is always a big concern for divorcing parents. While you and your spouse may have an idea of what you’d like to see happen, your plans can be thrown in disarray when your teen suddenly expresses a very definite preference about their future.
Maybe your teen wants to live with you most of the time, maybe they want to live with your co-parent. Do they really have any choice, however?
Pennsylvania law is somewhat vague on this issue
When it comes to physical custody of a child, family court judges are expected to weigh a variety of factors that pertain to the best interests of the child. Among those factors is “the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.”
What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that there’s no certain age at which a child’s preference overrides all the other factors involved.
Generally, older and more articulate children — like your teen — may find that their preference is given more weight than a younger, less mature child’s preference. Even then, however, your teen must be able to clearly and convincingly state a reason that makes sense to the court in order for their opinion to have any value.
If, for example, your teen wants to stay with you because they have personality conflicts with your ex-spouse’s new partner, that might be sufficient for the court to agree to the change. Similarly, if your teen wants to stay with your ex-spouse the majority of the time so that they don’t have to change high schools (which would interfere with both their academic career and their social life), that’s also something the court might consider.
What can you do if you’re concerned about custody?
When custody issues have you stressed, don’t guess about what can or will happen. Take your concerns to an experienced advocate and learn more about both your legal options and potential solutions.