What do Courts Consider

The law regarding the determination of custody mandates the court to do what is in the best interests of the children. The courts generally try to maintain stability for the children by examining how the parenting tasks were divided prior to separation, the mental and physical health of the parents, whether there are issues of concern that affect a care giver’s ongoing ability to care for the children and any other issues that are important to determining what is best for the children.

The Judges and experts do not generally ask the children where they want to live. If a child has a preference that he or she wishes to express and if the child is deemed old enough to express a preference, then judges and experts will give that appropriate consideration. However, it is more common for custody experts, called custody evaluators, to interview children, determine how the thirteen legal factors provided for by statute are effected in each case and make recommendations to the Judge regarding what type of custody and what pattern of visitation are in the children’s best interests.

Children do not have an automatic right at or after age 12 to decide where they will live. The preference of a child is only one of thirteen factors examine by the court. The age at which a child can express a preference is determined on a case by case basis. The Court will generally seek to determine if the child is mature enough to express an opinion.