October 5, 2012 - When parents get divorced and custody of a child must be decided, it is usually up to a judge to determine which parent a child will spend their time with. But does the child get to weigh in on this decision and what is their part in the custody proceedings?
In many states, a court may consider a child’s wishes as to custody arrangements if they believe they are of an appropriate age to make an intelligent decision. Since the goal is always the best interests of the child, their perspective on the dynamics of the family situation can be very important to a judge’s determination. In some states, children are permitted to testify in open court if they wish. In New Jersey, a child is interviewed individually in a judge’s chambers to determine if the child has a preference regarding their custody. This one-on-one interview with the child is called an “in-camera interview.”
Obviously, a child’s feelings can be relevant and enlightening; however, there can be inherent problems with this process. For example, young children can be easily influenced by by one parent and therefore, their interview answers may be biased. Also, the pressure of speaking negatively about a parent may be emotionally devastating to a child. Taking one parent’s “side” against the other parent may cause additional anxiety and worry for a child during an already stressful family time.
Typically, older children are much less likely to be persuaded by parental influence and the court will place more weight on the outcome of custody decisions based on an older child’s interview responses. Courts are very aware, however, of the “love one parent one day, hate them the next” syndrome that may typically occur with adolescents and teenagers. Their answers and feelings regarding their parents may be different from day to day. In addition, a child may campaign to live with a more permissive parent rather than with a stricter one who imposes rules and sets limits.
Contact the New Jersey Family Law Attorney, Chairman of Cooper Levenson’s Family Law Practice Group, Richard C. Klein, Esq., for Quality Legal Representation
Divorce and custody are complicated and emotional matters for the entire family. Richard C. Klein and his team of New Jersey Family Law attorneys are experienced, compassionate and knowledgeable custody lawyers in New Jersey. With offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we are conveniently located to represent clients throughout the state including Camden County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, Cumberland County, Salem County, Atlantic County, Cape May County, Mercer County, Monmouth County and Hunterdon County. Call our office today at 856-857-2256 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your New Jersey child custody matter