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Your child is the center of your custody case, and the New Jersey family court’s decision will primarily affect them and their life. So it seems natural that they wish to provide their input before any final decree is established. The only question remaining is if, and when, it is appropriate for them to do so. Continue reading to learn whether a family court will take the time to consider your child’s preference in the matter at hand and how an experienced Bergen County child custody attorney at McNerney & McAuliffe can work to ensure your child’s voice is heard loud and clear.

Will a New Jersey family court consider my child’s preference in my custody case?

Generally speaking, the New Jersey family court may allow your child to express their preference on a custody arrangement or parenting time in divorce proceedings, a post-judgment modification, or a paternity case. However, this is so long as the court deems your child to be of mature age, thereby capable of cultivating an intellectual opinion on it. Usually, a mature age is considered to be around 12 years old.

At the end of the day, though, the court will base its decision on what it considers to be in your child’s best interest. So, sometimes, what is believed to be in your child’s best interest may not necessarily align with your child’s shared preferences.

How can my child express their preferences to the court?

There is no harm in encouraging your child to express their preferences for custody with the New Jersey family court. Now, there are numerous ways in which you may foster this conversation, and they read as follows:

  • You may have your child meet with the New Jersey family judge in their chambers to discuss their desired arrangement.
  • You may have your child speak with the mental health expert assigned to your case to discuss their desired arrangement.
  • You may let the New Jersey family court appoint a guardian ad litem to represent your child’s desired arrangement.

During this time, you should not put undue pressure on your child to form an opinion if they wish to remain neutral. Even worse, you should not force them to share a preference for having you and their primary custodial parent.

The only circumstance in which you should set in is if you believe your child’s continued contact with their other parent would put them in harm’s way. In this circumstance, a judge almost always recommends working this out in an alternative dispute resolution. Namely, your child should join you in custody mediation.

You must do some reflection to fully understand the gravity of the situation at hand. Once you do, you must drop everything and reach out to a skilled Bergen County family law attorney from McNerney & McAuliffe.

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