Parents often ask whether their child has a say in determining custody. In Delaware, the wishes of the child are one of eight factors the Judge must consider in determining custody. In custody cases involving very young children, the wishes of a child are rarely significant. Instead of testifying like any other witness, children are interviewed by the Judge outside the presence of the parents. The Judge ultimately determines whether to interview the child, and if interviewed, what to ask.
As children age, their wishes are generally given more weight. What weight is given depends upon the age and maturity of the child, the reason for any preference in custody, whether and to what extent a parent has attempted to unduly influence the child’s preference, and other factors. There is no magic age where a child’s wishes are dispositive in determining custody. If a child is available to be interviewed, parents can testify to statements the children have made so long as reasonable notice of the statement is provided to the other parent in advance. The child interview is recorded, is part of the Court record, and can be listened to after the interview.
Parents with questions regarding the impact of their children’s wishes on custody should contact one of our attorneys. We are experienced in assisting parents in all types of custody cases, including those where children are interviewed.
Patrick J. Boyer concentrates his practice on family law. He advocates in various areas including, but not limited to, divorce, property division, alimony, child custody and visitation, child support, and domestic violence. In addition, Patrick assists his clients with issues involving guardianship and third-party visitation. He is licensed in Delaware and Pennsylvania and works out of the firm’s Centreville, Delaware office.