Children Have a Say In Many Child Custody Cases

Under Pennsylvania law, Family Court judges are instructed to consider a long list of factors when making decisions about child custody. One of those factors is the opinion of the child. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has produced an excellent video that outlines what happens when the court seeks the opinion of a child.

The Factors Judges Consider In Child Custody Cases

When a Family Court judge is trying to figure out what child custody arrangement will be in the best interest of the child, he or she is authorized to consider the following factors:

  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child to develop and keep a healthy relationship with the other parent and other extended family members?
  • Has the child been abused by either parent?
  • Have both parents been taking on parenting responsibilities? Or has one parent done everything for the child?
  • Children need stability. Which parent can provide that?
  • If the child has siblings, who has custody of them?
  • Have either of the parents tried to turn the child against the other parent?
  • Which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship
  • with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs?
  • Which parent is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs of the child?
  • How close do the parents live to one another?
  • Each parent’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
  • The level of conflict between the parents and the willingness and ability of the parents to cooperate with one another. (Unless there has been abuse going on, in which case, the court doesn’t consider this factor.)
  • A parent’s history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • The parent’s mental and physical health.

If the child is mature enough, the judge may also consider the child’s wishes regarding placement and visitation.

In order to determine the child’s opinion on physical custody, and assess the child’s thoughts on any of these other factors, many judges will invite the child into his or her chambers for a private interview.

The Interview

The interview between the judge and the child is private. Parents and attorneys are generally not welcome to sit in on it because the judge wants the child to feel comfortable speaking his or her mind.

In order to make parents and attorneys more comfortable with this practice, and provide Family Court judges information on effective child interviews, the Pennsylvania State Bar produced a video on the judicial interview of children.

The video is an excellent resource for parents who are concerned about the judicial interview. Our experienced team at the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. can also answer any questions parents may have about the judicial interview or child custody in general. We have been helping families in the Reading area navigate the Family Court system for decades. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.