The ages of the involved children is one of the most important factors in a child custody case. The enforceability and scope of a judge’s custody order may depend significantly on the children’s ages. For example, the courts would likely favor that an infant stays with one parent overnight most of the time because babies need regularity and consistency.
However, teenage children may have a say in which of their parents they want to stay with and how they want to visitation to go, as long as they have sound reason and reliable judgment. The ages of the children have a significant impact on the type of custody arrangement that the court may order, and they guide a judge in analyzing what schedule would be best for them.
Each child is different, and a judge must consider their age, whether they can transition well, and the location and the proximity between their parents’ homes when making a custody decision, as well as many other factors. To improve your understanding of the impact of a child’s age on Maryland custody cases, consult a knowledgeable attorney.
Voicing Their Own Opinions
A child who is at least 16 years old can go to court and voice their opinion on what type of custodial arrangement they would prefer. However, subjecting a teenager to a court room and judge and asking them to make important decisions could have detrimental long-term effects on their emotional development and is highly discouraged by the courts.
The courts generally frown on having children testify in court about whom they would prefer to live with or what type of arrangement they want. By enlisting the help of an experienced attorney who can advocate for a child’s best interests in court, parents can prevent emotional trauma from befalling their kids. Legal counsel could assist the parties in coming up with a better solution other than their child coming to court to speak to the judge.
When a Child’s Wishes Conflict with a Judge’s Ruling
The preference of a child is one of many factors which must be considered by a judge when issuing a custody order. However, it is not mandatory for the tribunal to treat a child’s wishes as a determining factor. In cases where a party wants their child’s preference to be heard, the court may appoint a best interest attorney to them. A child’s preference may be directly opposite of what is in their best interests, and it is up to a court to make that ruling.
That appointed lawyer would be responsible for representing the best interests of the child and voicing their preferences on their behalf. However, the child’s attorney may ultimately determine that their wishes do not align with their best interests.
In many custody cases, the children are being influenced by one parent or the other, and there is often alienation taking place. For this reason, the courts may be unlikely to prioritize a young child’s wishes about which of their parents they want to live with on a regular basis.
It is a judge’s responsibility to carefully consider all relevant factors when determining children’s best interests. If you have questions about the impact of a child’s age on Maryland custody cases, reach out to our firm today to learn more about this complex legal process.