When parents of older children get divorced, the question of whether the child can choose which parent to live with often comes up. Children can not choose which parent gets custody.
However, the courts do take the child’s wishes into account.
Impact of a child’s preference on custody arrangements
Massachusetts courts take the preferences of the child into account when the court determines that the child is old enough to have a rational opinion. However, the law does not specify an age at which the court must make this determination. Instead, it is up to the court to determine whether a child is old enough. Generally, children who are 10 years old or older are old enough, but not all children can articulate their preference clearly or convince the court why they should live with one parent over the other.
Factors that determine custody
Even when the court takes a child’s preference into account, it is not the sole deciding factor. The law instructs judges to act in the best interests of the child. In most cases, the judge will give preference to maintaining a relationship between the child and both parents. However, the court will sometimes award sole custody to a parent if the other parent has a history of abusive behavior, substance abuse or neglect.
Custody cases involving children who prefer to live with one parent over the other can be difficult. Divorcing parents who are willing to work to maintain good relations between their children and their ex-spouse can make custody cases easier on their children.