Determining Custody: Child's Wishes and Preferences
In family law cases, such as those involving child custody or relocation, learning about a child's wishes and preferences is an important consideration. The process for ascertaining a child's wishes can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the age and maturity of the child. Here are some common methods:
Child Interviews for Court
1. **Child Interview by the Judge or Evaluator**: In some cases, a judge or a court-appointed custody evaluator may directly interview the child to learn about their wishes and feelings. This is typically done in a private and sensitive manner, and the child may be encouraged to express their thoughts honestly.
2. **Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or Attorney for the Child**: In some cases, a guardian ad litem or an attorney is appointed to represent the child's interests. This individual may meet with the child, gather information about their preferences, and advocate on the child's behalf.
3. **Child Custody Evaluations**: A child custody evaluation may be ordered by the court, where a mental health professional or social worker assesses the child's well-being and preferences. The evaluator may conduct interviews, observations, and psychological assessments to gather information.
4. **Child's Testimony in Court**: In some cases, particularly if the child is older and mature enough to testify, the child may provide testimony in court about their preferences and feelings.
5. **Child's Statement to an Attorney**: If the child is represented by an attorney or a guardian ad litem, they may express their wishes to their legal representative.
6. **In-Camera Interviews**: In some jurisdictions, a judge may conduct an in-camera interview with the child. This means the child talks to the judge privately, without the presence of the parents or their attorneys.
It's important to note that the ability of the child to express their preferences can be influenced by their age, maturity, and the circumstances of the case. Younger children may have less say in the decision-making process, while older and more mature children's preferences may carry more weight.
Additionally, the court will always weigh the child's wishes against the best interests of the child. If a child expresses a strong desire to live with one parent but the court believes it is not in their best interests, the court may make a different decision. The court's primary concern is the child's well-being and safety.
If you wish to avoid court or avoid your child being involved in the court system, there are other ways to determine the child's wishes through child centered mediation.
It's crucial to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process of learning about and presenting the child's wishes in a manner consistent with the legal requirements and the child's best interests. Contact us today to learn more about your situation.