Do children have a choice in custody matters?

Discover what Maryland laws says about children's involvement in custody proceedings. Find out if a child can choose with which parent he or she lives.

One of the most common issues a court must handle in divorce cases is child custody. It is always most desirable if the couple can come to an agreement on custody issues without the court having to step in. However, when parents cannot agree, the court does get involved. It must take many different factors into consideration to ensure it makes the decision that is in the best interest of the children. In some cases, that may include asking the children for their wishes.

Making custody decisions

When the court must step in and make decisions about custody, the Children's Rights Council explains that the court must make decisions based on what is best for the children. It does this by considering many factors. It will look into the character of each parent and how well each can provide for the children on a daily basis. The court considers the ages of the children and always keeps in mind their safety and overall well-being.

In some cases, the court may also ask the children where they want to live. However, this may only happen when the court decides the child is mature enough to provide an opinion. The court wants to ensure the child understands what is happening and the impact of any decisions made in the case.

Children age 16 or older

The General Assembly of Maryland explains Maryland law gives some weight to the opinions of children who are 16 years old or older. After the initial custody decision, children in this age group have the right to petition the court on their own without a parent for a change in custody. This allows the child to express his or her wishes directly to the court for consideration. The court must hold a hearing. If the court rules in favor of the child, it will allow for a change in the custody orders so the child may live with the parent he or she has chosen.

Keep in mind that when a child uses this right to petition the court, he or she can do so on his or her own. However, he or she should have some type of legal representation. This will assist with ensuring the proper paperwork is filed and that he or she has proper representation during the hearing. A family law attorney, such as the Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A., is equipped to assist any child who wishes to petition the court for a change to a custody order.