child in between parents

Can Children Pick Which Parent They Want to Live With in a Divorce?

When parents split up, it's hard for the whole family. Parents have to decide how to split custody — an incredibly difficult task. Additionally, the child may want to have a say in custody. While a child can state their preference in some states, is the same true for a child in New Jersey? Our Bergen County child custody attorneys explain.

How is Custody Determined in New Jersey?

Every case is unique, which means the court will determine custody on a case-by-case basis. At the end of the day, the court's ultimate goal is to make custody decisions that are in the best interest of the child. Therefore, they have general guidelines to follow in order to make their ruling.

Some factors the court will consider in determining who a child will live with include:

  • The parent's willingness to communicate and cooperate with each other about custody matters
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • The child's safety and whether there is a history of domestic violence
  • The needs of the child
  • The child's age and number of children
  • The child's preference if they are of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent decision

There are several other factors listed in New Jersey's family laws that the court considers. The judge will consider all of these factors and make a custody decision that they consider to be in the child's best interests.

According to the guidelines, the child's preference is a factor the court will consider. However, the child must be of sufficient age and have the capacity in order to make an intelligent decision. Essentially, the child must be able to understand why important this decision is.

If a child does state their preference, the judge is obligated to take it into consideration when deciding a custody ruling. However, this does not mean that this factor is the only thing the judge has to listen to. If the judge doesn't find that the child's preference is in their best interest, the judge has the authority to decide against it.

How is Sufficient Age and Capacity Determined?

There is no specific age that New Jersey law states are sufficient for custody cases. Instead, to determine what age and capacity are sufficient for a child to be able to state their preference, the court has the discretion to evaluate each child's ability to participate in the custody case in a meaningful way. This can be done by interviewing the child.

If you have questions about your child custody case, contact Sherwood, Johnson & Poles today by calling our Bergen County child custody lawyers at (888) 224-1218.