It’s very common for a mom or dad to come see me as an experienced Buffalo Child Custody Lawyer and say, “My daughter (or my son) is living with the other parent and they keep telling me they want to come live with me.” That parent wants to know what I can do. Very often, the first step is to make sure the child really does want to make that change. Number two, if you want to move forward, is to bring an application to either the family court or the Supreme Court to make that request. Once that happens, the court will often appoint an attorney to represent the child vis a vis Mom or Dad’s position and then make a decision based on what’s best for the child. Is a move from where he or she is living with either Mom or Dad to the other parent’s home truly in the child’s best interest?
Courts will not rely solely on a child’s preference. Generally, the younger the child, the less weight a judge will give to that child’s opinion. For example, a judge will consider what a 16-year-old has to say more than what a 12-year-old has to say but will ultimately make a decision based on what’s best for the child. The court will make sure the child is not playing one parent against the other in seeking to make the move. Just because the child expresses an interest in moving from one parent to another, it does not necessarily mean it’s going to happen. It’s not an automatic rubber stamp.
On the other hand, the court does consider a child’s preference to some degree. If the child comes in and says it’s just an untenable situation living with Mom or Dad, either because of a remarriage or because of some problem in the household – like alcohol or drugs or some such thing – their words would be given more weight. Every single case is different because the facts and circumstances of every case are different. If a 12-year-old tells Mom or Dad they want to make a change, that request has to be investigated very carefully to determine whether or not such a move is in the child’s best interest.
Do you want to know if your child can choose where they live? Contact experienced Buffalo Divorce Lawyer Michael Ranzenhofer for guidance.