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Can a child’s wishes influence a Maryland custody order?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Child Custody

The possibility of a divorce having a negative impact on someone’s relationship with their children can have a real chilling effect on their choices, even if a person believes divorce would be in their best decision given their circumstances. Exaggerated stories about parents who completely lose custody of their children and grieve the damage to their relationship for years can leave people feeling trapped in unhappy or even unhealthy marriages.

Particularly when one adult has spent more time with the children or seems to have a stronger relationship with them, the other adult in the family may worry that the children might not want to spend time with them at all. Do the younger members of the family get to decide where they stay when their parents divorce?

Older children can influence the process

Any child old enough to understand the idea of parental divorce will probably have feelings about what they hope will happen. However, children have a hard time considering the long-term consequences of their behavior and may not understand what is in their own best interests. Judges have to look at numerous different factors when deciding how to split custody between parents. The preferences of the children in the family are one of the many factors that they can consider, provided that the children are at least 16 years old.

Even then, a judge is unlikely to agree with the teenager who asserts that they never want to see one of their parents again. The judge will want to make choices that preserve both parental relationships to the greatest extent possible. Children who are between 16 and 18 years of age can have an influence on what the judge ultimately decides, but they do not dictate the terms that the judge will set.

Parents worried about the current state of their relationship with their child and how that might influence the outcome of custody proceedings may work to very carefully focus their legal strategy on establishing that their ongoing relationship with the children would be a positive thing. In all but the rarest of cases, family law judges will typically try to keep both parents actively involved with the children.

Learning about the rules that apply to Maryland custody disputes may help parents overcome their fears, like their concern about the future of their relationship with their children, that may be holding them back from what they believe to be truly healthy decisions.