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How much influence does a child’s preference have on custody?

During a divorce, your children might struggle with the reality that they will not live under the same roof with both of their parents. No matter their age, children might get upset and push back in these situations.

This might lead many parents to wonder: can children influence the child custody arrangement?

Is a child’s preference considered in custody?

The short answer? Yes, the child’s preference is one of the many factors that Minnesota family courts consider when establishing a custody agreement, along with factors such as:

  • The child’s physical and emotional needs;
  • Each parent’s history of childcare responsibilities;
  • The relationship between each parent and the child; and
  • The proximity to the community the child is familiar with.

However, even if family courts consider a child’s preference, it may not influence the custody arrangement too much.

The child’s preference alone does not affect the custody decision

It is important to note that the weight a child’s preference carries depends entirely on:

  • The family’s specific circumstances;
  • Whether it is in the best interests of the child;
  • If their reasoning is rational and justifiable; and
  • Each parent’s preferences, ability and participation in childcare.

Essentially, the child’s preference is only one factor of the custody agreement. It does not overrule all of the other factors involved in the custody decision.

Communication is critical

Parents often wish to shield their children from complex legal issues surrounding their divorce or custody agreement. Minnesota family courts are also often hesitant to have children be so involved in the custody decision – especially young children.

Yet, as children age and life for the whole family changes, the custody arrangement might have to change to better fit everyone’s needs and schedule. So, what can parents do? It is often beneficial to:

Discussing the arrangement can help families negotiate an arrangement that works best for everyone. Most importantly, parents must remember that it is their responsibility to protect their child’s best interests.

You should still respect your child’s wishes and listen to them, but in the long run, you know what is best for your child.