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What role do your children’s preferences play in custody?

Like many parents who go through divorces, you are likely concerned whether you will receive custody of your children. You may have a strong bond with them, and they might have expressed that they would prefer to live with you instead of your spouse. Yet, you may be unsure if your children’s wishes will have any weight during divorce proceedings. It is possible that they may, depending on your children’s age and maturity.

When children have a say

In New York, the custody arrangement you and your spouse reach must be in your children’s best interests. Among the factors that comprise these are your children’s preferences, so long as they are of a reasonable age or maturity. Generally, the older your children are, the more likely their preferences will have weight. This is because they are more likely to be independent thinkers and less likely to be susceptible to you or your spouse’s influence.

When considering your children’s preferences, the court will also make sure that they line up with the circumstances of your divorce. For instance, you may be able to provide your children greater safety and stability than your spouse would. If your children want to live with you for this reason, the court may take their preferences into account. Yet, you and your spouse may both be fit, loving parents. If your children would rather live with you because they consider you the more fun, permissive parent, it is unlikely their preferences will hold any weight.

How visitation factors in

Depending on your circumstances, the court may decide that it is in your children’s best interests for you to be their custodial parent. In this case, your spouse will still receive visitation. Even if your children want to spend all their time with you, you must do your best to foster and encourage their relationship with your spouse. Failing to do so could result in consequences for you.

If your children voice that they want to live with you after your divorce, you must make sure their reasons are sound. A family law attorney can help you determine if this arrangement reflects their best interests and your family’s needs.