One of the most challenging parts of getting a divorce is navigating the conversation with any shared children who will be impacted by the separation. For children, divorce is never easy, and is only made more complicated when parents are in dispute about with whom children should live. When parents are determining custody—both inside and outside of the courtroom—they may be unsure about what role their child plays. Consider the following information about when a child can express preference in a Massachusetts custody case, as well as how an attorney can help—
Factors a Court Considers in a Child Custody Case
When parents are divorcing, they are strongly encouraged to reach a child custody arrangement on their own without the intervention of the court. However, in many cases, the relationship does not have the capacity to allow for such collaboration, and parents turn to a judge to make a determination. When this is the case, the court will consider a number of factors, including:
- The parental fitness of each parent
- Any history of abuse within the home
- The child’s health and needs, physical, emotional, and mental
- The parent-child relationships that exist
The court is obliged to make a determination that is in the best interests of the child. It will consider the above factors, as well as any other necessary and relevant factors, to do this.
When Will the Court Consider the Opinion of the Child?
Depending on the circumstances of the case and the age and the maturity of the child, the court may consider the child’s opinion. However, while a court may consider the child’s opinion if the child is of a proper age and maturity level to be involved, this is usually a last-resort option. The court wants to limit the child’s involvement in the case to the extent possible in order to protect the child from any emotional trauma that may result from participation.
Tips for Strengthening Your Child Custody Case
If you are in a dispute with your spouse about who will get the children when the divorce is finalized, relying on your child’s testimony during a divorce hearing probably isn’t a good idea. Instead, there are other, more effective ways to strengthen your case that don’t involve your child’s direct participation. These include:
- Document the amount of time you spend caring for your child
- Find witnesses who can speak to your relationship with your child
- Document your child’s needs (and have these needs affirmed by a professional, such as the child’s teacher, doctor, or therapist) and how your child’s relationship with you helps to meet those needs
- Create a stable, safe, and secure home environment
How an Attorney Can Help
The risk of losing custody of your child can be very real and very nerve-racking. To improve the outcome of your child custody case, working with a skilled attorney is strongly recommended. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our Massachusetts child custody attorney can represent you throughout the course of your divorce case and advocate for your and your child’s best interests. Contact our law office online today or by calling (617) 903-8955.