Question for Attorney Carbone: Can My Children Choose What Parent to Live With?
Question: My wife and I have begun divorce proceedings. We’ve agreed on many sticking points; however, the issue we keep fighting over is custody of the children. My wife is not a very responsible person and she tends to neglect our children. I don’t think she should have custody, just visitation rights. My boys, ages 10 and 14, have said they wanted to live with me. Do they have a say in who they can live with? Can they choose who to live with?
Answer: Before we answer this question, it’s important to know how child custody is determined in New Jersey. It all comes down to the best interests of the child. Although it’s encouraged that parents decide on custody, sometimes it’s just not possible and it will be up to the court to decide. The court uses a list of criteria to decide custody, such as the parents’ economic stability, whether the parents can communicate and cooperate on parenting issues, and the child’s safety from harm.
When it comes down to the child’s preference, the court is required to learn who the children prefer to live with and use that information in reaching a judgment. However, there is a question of maturity – a judge may say the child isn’t sufficiently mature enough to form a decision. So no, your child cannot just choose to live with you. It’s still up to the court to make the decision.
Also, be aware that the court doesn’t have to follow the wishes of the child, even if that child is considered mature enough to make the decision. But it should be used as a factor in determining child custody. If you say that your wife has neglected your children, and you have evidence to prove this, then a custody arrangement will be in your favor since it serves in the best interest of the child.
If you are getting a divorce or have an issue with child custody in New Jersey, we can help. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone for a free consultation. And remember, if you have a question that you would like Attorney Carbone answer, just let us know!