Do Children Have a Say in Child Custody Arrangements?

August 24, 2020

child custody arrangements

When parents go through a divorce, child custody is often discussed as a part of the proceedings. The divorcing couple works together or through intermediaries to negotiate a custody arrangement as part of their divorce settlement. However, what if the divorcing couple’s children have their own ideas about what constitutes a fair and agreeable custody arrangement?

Some children feel strongly about the custody arrangements. Often, children implore one or the other parent to push for changes on their behalf. Sometimes, this causes friction within the family and the court must step in to rectify the situation by evaluating the positions of all stakeholders, including insightful children that wish to have a say in the matter.

What Role Does the Court Have in Custody Agreements?

When it comes to child custody arrangements, the courts typically allow the parents to work out the details. When parents are able to come up with a plan they can live with, the court grants approval of the agreement as long as the negotiated arrangement serves the best interests of the children. Keeping family harmony can play into that decision, so the court usually defers to the parents to present an agreeable custody plan.

However, the court will be obligated to go against the parents’ plan if the arrangement does not set forth what is best for the children. For example, if one parent has a substance abuse problem or a history of neglecting the children, the court would step in.

When Can Children Provide Input in Custody Arrangements?

Either at the time of the divorce or in the following years as the children grow, the children may have their own ideas about their living arrangements.

When children have strong opinions about the issue, the court may decide to hear them out. Oftentimes, the age of 14 years old is considered to be an acceptable threshold for when children should legally have a say in their own custody.

In New Jersey, children as young as 12 years old or younger may be able to petition the court for the opportunity to make changes. The children’s maturity levels and their abilities to make a good case for the change are important factors.

What are Some Considerations the Children May Present to Sway a Judge?

Children whose lives are negatively impacted by routinely being shuffled between two parents’ homes might make compelling arguments that it affects their lives. Such an argument may be made if travelling between homes causes interruptions with education, friendships, or extra-curricular activities and interests.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Custody Arrangement?

If a parent wishes to make modifications to a custody plan, they should speak to a lawyer. A lawyer can petition for the modifications and vouch for what is right for the family.

Moorestown Divorce Lawyers at Stockton Family Law Help Families Sort Out Workable Custody Arrangements

If you wish to make modifications to your custody arrangement, talk to one of our Moorestown divorce lawyers at Stockton Family Law today. We can help your family make changes to your custody agreement. Contact us online or call us at 856-412-5052 for an initial consultation. Located in Moorestown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mount Laurel, Burlington County, and Camden County.