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How courts handle the wishes of children in custody disputes

Child custody decisions in Pennsylvania and around the country are based on what is considered by family law judges to be in the best interests of the children who are the subject of the matter. Judges take a number of factors into consideration when applying this doctrine, and the wishes of the children involved will generally be one of these factors. In Pennsylvania, judges must consider the well-reasoned opinions of the children involved in custody and visitation disputes based on their maturity and the soundness of their judgment.

Not all custody and visitation arrangements are put into place by court order, and parents who are able to resolve these issues amicably are unlikely to be subjected to much in the way of official scrutiny. However, these arrangements may be put under great stress when children become unhappy and demand greater freedom. In these situations, it is often the noncustodial parent who is seen as the escape from the demands and discipline of a child's home life.

Family law judges understand that giving children exactly what they want is not always in their best interests, and they may be reluctant to listen to the arguments of young and immature children. Judges may also view such arguments as possible signs of custodial interference, and they could react harshly when it becomes clear that young children have been influenced or coached by noncustodial parents.

Family law attorneys with experience in child custody and visitation disputes may urge their clients to resolve these matters through negotiation whenever possible. Parents generally want what is best for their children, and reminding them of this may be all that is required to get discussions moving in the right direction. When the couple is unable to reach an accord, however, attorneys may suggest an alternative venue such as mediation.

Source: The Pennsylvania Legislature, "Child Custody", accessed on May 5, 2017.

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