One of the most commonly asked questions about Massachusetts divorce cases is whether a minor child’s preference can impact the custody decision in any way. The short answer is: it depends. While a child’s preference is certainly a factor that the court will take into consideration while making a child custody decision, it will never be the deciding or determining factor.
At Davis Law Group, we know that child custody can be one of the most contentious factors in a divorce case. Family law attorney Jay Davis has extensive experience in handling child custody and visitation cases and can put together a legal strategy to achieve an outcome that is in the best interest of your child. At every step of the process, Jay will protect your rights as a parent, provide you with the advice, guidance, the support you need, and help you make the right decisions.
Impact of Minor Children’s Preferences on Custody Agreements
In Massachusetts, courts do not base their child custody decisions on the preferences of minor children. Technically, until a child turns 18, they cannot unilaterally decide where they want to live or which parent they want to live with. Taking all of this into account, a child can certainly express their preferences as to which parent they want to live with.
There are many reasons why the court will not make a child custody decision based on a minor child’s custodial preferences:
- Young children can be easily influenced or even manipulated by adults around them. When a child states their preference to live with a parent, the judge can never be sure whether the child genuinely wants to do so or whether the child has been influenced or conditioned by that particular parent.
- Young children can be fickle and might contradict themselves from time to time.
- Young children might not be able to think rationally and might want to live with a parent for superficial reasons. For instance, if a parent overindulges their child and turns a blind eye to the child’s bad manners or bad behavior, the child might prefer that parent over the other parent — especially if the other parent happens to be a disciplinarian and wants to instill the right values in the child. In such a scenario, the court might not allow the child to live with the overindulgent parent, just because the child prefers to do so.
Our legal team at Davis Law Group, led by top-rated divorce lawyer Jay Davis, knows that your child means the world to you. We also know that a long, drawn-out legal battle for child custody can affect all the parties involved, particularly your child.
We will provide you with the right advice, negotiate with the other parent’s attorney, and do everything we can to make it easier for you to come to an agreement with the other parent and achieve an outcome that can benefit your child in the long-term. At the same time, if the other parent is being completely unreasonable, we will not hesitate to go to court and fight aggressively to achieve a favorable outcome.
When Might the Court Consider the Custody Preferences of a Minor Child?
If the child in question is over the age of 10 and seems mature enough to understand the gravity of the situation, the court might take their preferences into consideration while making its decision.
Even then, the court will not base its decision solely on the child’s preferences. It will consider a variety of different factors to make its decision. These include:
- The child’s educational and health needs.
- The child’s relationship with the parents.
- The child’s relationship with the family members of the parents.
- Whether one parent has a history of alcohol abuse, drug use, violence, or abandonment.
- Whether one parent has been the child’s primary caregiver in the past.
- The willingness of each parent to take care of the child and nurture a close relationship with the child.
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.
- The physical and mental health of the parents.
Will a Minor Child Have to Testify in Court?
In a vast majority of cases, minor children are not required to testify in court. Courts in Massachusetts know that forcing children to take part in the custody battle and asking them to choose one parent over another can harm them emotionally and irreparably damage their relationship with the other parent. If needed, the court might appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) or an attorney representing children (ARC) to attain an idea regarding the child’s preferences.
Choose a Trusted and Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Massachusetts to Protect Your Rights
Child custody battles can be intense and emotionally exhausting. You need an attorney who is not only knowledgeable, but also truly cares about you. Jay Davis is a seasoned child custody attorney in Massachusetts, with a track record of having helped numerous Massachusetts residents over the years with child custody and visitation-related issues.
Our legal team at Davis Law Group has the skills and resources to achieve the best possible outcomes, even in the most complicated of child custody cases. To find out how we can help you, call us today at 617-221-3548 or fill out our online contact form and schedule a free consultation with us.
James H. (Jay) Davis III
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