The Weight of a Child’s Voice: Considering Custody Preferences in Maryland
We are often asked by parents, “Can a child’s preference be taken into account when deciding custody?”. In Maryland, a child’s preference can be taken into account when deciding custody, although it is just one of several factors considered by the court. The primary goal is to make a custody determination that serves the best interests of the child. The child’s preference is typically given more weight as they get older and demonstrate the ability to express a well-reasoned opinion.
The factors considered by the court in determining custody in Maryland include:
The fitness of each parent: The court will assess the physical and mental health of each parent and their ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child.
The child’s age and developmental needs: The age of the child is a significant factor in custody decisions. Younger children may require more consistent care and attention, whereas older children may have a greater ability to express their preferences effectively.
The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs: The court will evaluate each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs, including factors such as providing a safe home, access to healthcare, and educational support.
The child’s relationship with each parent: The court will consider the nature and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent, including the history of involvement, emotional bond, and level of support provided.
Stability and continuity: The court will assess the impact of any proposed custody arrangement on the child’s stability and continuity, including factors such as maintaining relationships with siblings, extended family members, and community ties.
Any history of domestic violence or abuse: If there is a history of domestic violence or abuse involving either parent, the court will consider this and prioritize the safety and well-being of the child.
It is important to note that while the child’s preference can be considered, the final decision rests with the court, which will weigh all relevant factors to determine the child’s best interests. Here are two examples that illustrate how a child’s preference could be considered:
Example 1: A 14-year-old child expresses a strong preference to live with their father, citing a more stable and supportive environment. The court may consider the child’s preference more heavily due to their age, maturity, and ability to articulate their reasons.
Example 2: A 6-year-old child expresses a desire to live with their mother because they feel more comfortable and secure in her presence. While the child’s preference is acknowledged, the court may place more weight on factors such as the child’s developmental needs, stability, and the ability of each parent to meet those needs.
In both examples, the child’s preference is taken into account, but it is balanced with other relevant factors to determine the custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interests according to Maryland law.
Are you facing a complex custody battle? Protect your parental rights and ensure the best outcome for your child. Contact Petrelli Previtera, your trusted Chevy Chase Child Custody Lawyers, today. Our legal team is ready to guide you through the legal process and advocate for your family’s interests. Schedule a consultation now to discuss your case and take proactive steps towards a favorable resolution.