ATA NBTA | The National Board of Trial Advocacy Association of Trial Lawyers of America Virginia Trial Lawyers Association National Asociation of Distinguished Counsel | Nation's Top One Percent | NADC AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF FAMILY ATTORNEYS

Can a child's preferences have an impact in a child custody case?

Parents are not the only ones who can go into a child custody case with very strong opinions. The child the case is focused on may have a preference regarding who will have custody of them.

A child's expressed preference regarding child custody can have impacts on a court's decision in a custody case. The best interests of the child are what are to drive the decisions of courts in Virginia custody cases. Under Virginia law, one of the things courts are generally to consider when determining what is in a child's best interests is the child's preference.

One qualifier to this consideration is that the court must find that the child is capable of expressing a reasonable preference. Things courts look at when determining a child's ability to express a preference are the child's age, understanding, intelligence and experience.

Another important thing to note is that while a child's preference is one of the factors courts consider when looking at a child's best interests, it is certainly not the only one. There are all sorts of different best interest factors Virginia law directs courts to look at in custody cases. Thus, it is possible that, after considering all these different factors, a court will determine that it is in the child's best interests to put a different type of custody arrangement in place than the one the child expressed a preference for.

The issue of child preference underscores how child custody cases can be incredibly complex cases in which a wide variety of different things can play a role. Thus, parents may find it worthwhile to bring in a family law attorney to help guide them through the complexities of child custody proceedings.