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If you have questions about whether or not your child can choose which parent to live with in New Jersey, read on and reach out to our skilled Bergen County child custody attorney today.

How old must a child be to weigh into child custody?

All states allow judges to consider the choice of a child in a custody case, as long as they deem that child sufficiently mature. It is important to note that most states do not set a certain age, including New Jersey, instead of letting judges decide case by case.

How does a child’s opinion fit into custody determinations?

Recognize that a judge never has to award custody according to a child’s desires. Other factors, including each parent’s criminal history and bond with the child, always are considered.

Also, a judge attempts to assess whether a child’s preference for one parent is because of the persuasion or leniency of that parent, which would give the choice less of a basis from the court’s perspective.

For instance, a 14-year-old may not get to live with her mom as she wishes if evidence shows the mother lets her drive without a license. On the other hand, a 12-year-old with definite reasons for choosing a proper parent could have a significant influence on a judge’s ruling.

How do children share these opinions?

Children typically do not attest to their choices in court because the conditions can be emotional and scary.

Instead, they generally communicate their thoughts in conversation with the judge, a custody evaluator, or someone appointed by the court to represent their interests (like a guardian ad litem).

Interviews with the judge usually occur in the judge’s office and are thus known as in-chambers or in-camera hearings. Typically, a court reporter and the child’s legal representative are present. In some circumstances, the parents’ attorneys are also allowed in but not the parents themselves.

Some judges ask the child directly who they would like to live with, while others only ask related questions like, “What do you do for fun with your dad?” In some states, both parents must consent before the child may speak with a judge. Reach out to our firm today if you have additional questions. Our Bergen County family law attorney is on your side.


Here at McNerney & McAuliffe, we understand how confusing certain legal matters can be, which is why we are here to provide clients from all walks of life with the experienced, compassionate legal guidance they need. If you require the legal assistance of an attorney to help you through a criminal law matter, personal injury matter, family law matter, or otherwise, you can turn to us. Contact McNerney & McAuliffe today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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