The Role of a Child’s Preference in Custody Trials

The Role of a Child’s Preference in Custody Trials

In Pennsylvania, the Court is required to consider 16 enumerated factors in rendering a decision in custody cases. One of those factors is the child’s preference, so long as it is mature and well-reasoned.

There is no specific age at which the court has deemed a child mature enough to voice a preference, rather, a child’s preference is considered so long as the preference itself is mature and well-reasoned.

The older a child is, the more weight his or her preference tends to carry; however, an articulate young child’s preference can be instrumental in a custody decision depending on its content.

If a child indicated to a judge that she liked living with her Father because she had lots of friends in the neighborhood, she loved her school, and because she has always lived with her Father, the court may be more inclined to award custody to Father over Mother than it would be without the child’s input. The child is indicating that she likes the school she is in, and therefore, changing to the school in Mother’s district may be disruptive. The child indicated that she has a lot of friends near Father’s home, which may indicate that she would not have as much of a support system in Mother’s home. The fact that the child has always been with her Father could lead the court to determine that awarding custody to Father would provide continuity and stability.

If a child indicated to a judge that he wanted to live with his Mother because she lets him stay up late, has a pool in her backyard, and because she lets him eat candy for dinner, the court may not give this preference any weight as it is not mature or well-reasoned. Basing a preference for one parent’s home over the other on superficial things or on lack of rules is not mature or well-reasoned. In this scenario, the child’s preference may be ignored and not considered due to lack of maturity and well-reasoned logic.

While a child’s preference is not determinative, if it is well-reasoned and mature, the court must consider it in making a decision regarding custody.

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About the author

About Alicia Fastman

Alicia Fastman graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, then went on to complete her Juris Doctorate at the Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, DE. Alicia graduated from law school with pro bono distinction, completed a Certificate in Criminal Law, and focused her intensive studies within the fields of litigation and trial advocacy. Alicia joined LaMonaca Law in April of 2011 and is a Partner at the firm. She was selected as a Top Lawyer in Main Line Magazine in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019 in the areas of Family Law and Divorce and has been named as a Best Lawyer in the areas of Adoption and Trial in the Delaware County Daily Times. Alicia is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Delaware County Bar Associations. Alicia resides in Delaware County with her dog, Leonard. In her time outside of the courtroom or office, she enjoys creating art, listening to podcasts, and spending time with friends and family.