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Does a child’s wishes matter in North Carolina custody cases?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2022 | Child Custody |

As you approach your divorce, it is only natural like you and your ex will inevitably disagree about how you share time with the children and which one of you should have more decision-making authority than the other. When you don’t settle those disagreements on your own, you may have to go to court.

A North Carolina family law judge can split up your parenting time and authority in a manner that is both fair to you and appropriate for your children. If you go to court, a judge will have to consider numerous different family factors to determine the best custody circumstances.

Are the preferences of your children part of what a judge will consider in your custody case?

Children may have to discuss their preferences

There is no one factor that determines the best outcome for custody matters. Different elements, including your daily schedule, the relationship you have with your children and even the age and sex of your kids can determine the best custody arrangements for your family.

In some circumstances, a judge will also want to talk with your children about their preferences. North Carolina law does not set a certain age at which a child’s wishes will factor into custody decisions. Instead, the judge has to consider the family dynamics and the maturity of the individual children when determining how much weight to give their specific preferences.

For many children and teenagers, needing to make an explicit statement about their custody wishes will be one of the most stressful parts of the divorce process. You and your ex can potentially keep your children out of that stressful situation by negotiating your own settlement.

Judges recognize that most children are still immature

Parents often worry about the preferences of their children in part because of the Disneyland parent effect. One parent may choose not to discipline the children at all, may give them total access to technology or might take them shopping during every visit. That might prejudice the children’s statements in court.

Judges know that children can make statements based on superficial behaviors and an aversion to discipline or structure, which is why the children’s wishes will only be one of several matters that influence the judge’s final decision. Understanding what determines custody can help you prepare yourself and your children for your upcoming custody litigation.