February 12, 2018
A child generally does not have the ability to choose which parent they get to live with in North Carolina. In some cases, the child may provide testimony that a judge can consider when making a custody decision, but the judge does not have to abide by the child’s wishes.
Ultimately, the child’s parents, their attorneys, and the judge can all have influence over a custody agreement. Everyone will consider the best interests of the child, but the child’s actual opinion won’t be controlling.
How Custody Decisions Are Made
A custody decision can be made in one of two ways:
- Both parents agree to a parenting plan that states how both physical and legal custody will be shared. The plan is submitted for approval to the court. If approved, the plan becomes an official court order.
- If the parents can’t come to an agreement, a judge will decide who gets custody. The judge will primarily base their decision on what is in the best interests of the child.
In either case, the child does not get to choose which parent they live with. If child custody is decided by a judge, the child may get the opportunity to state their preference.
How a Judge Considers a Child’s Preference
The judge has considerable discretion over child custody matters. Parents who submit child custody issues to a judge are therefore giving up most of the control over this crucial decision.
First, a judge can decide whether or not to even take a child’s testimony on their preferred parenting arrangement. The judge will consider the child’s age and whether they have sufficient mental capacity to offer testimony.
Second, the judge decides how much weight to give to the child’s opinion. If the child asks for a parenting arrangement that the judge believes is not in the child’s best interests, the judge can disregard the testimony.
If a child is going to testify, the parties may wish to allow the testimony to take place in the judge’s chambers. Many children will be uncomfortable or nervous about testifying in court, so this could make the process less stressful for them.
In the end, either the parents or the judge will make the final decision on all custody matters. The best way to stay in control of the process is to negotiate a custody agreement with the help of an experienced child custody attorney.
King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina. Call 888-748-KING (5464) today for a consultation with one of our dedicated family law attorneys.