Divorce cases can be extremely emotional, especially when the divorcing parties share a child. While Kentucky courts promote the concept of joint custody, it is not wholly uncommon for the judge to grant primary custody to one parent while the other parent is granted parenting time (also referred to as “visitation”) rights. And this is often where the question of the child’s preference comes in.
Like with most family court matters, there is no “yes” on “no” answer to this question. While the court may consider the child’s opinion when ruling on the child’s post-divorce living arrangements, the final judgment must be based on the best interests of the child. Thus, the amount of weight the court will give to the child’s preference depends on a number of factors, including other specifics of the case and the child’s maturity level.
When might the court consider a child’s preference?
Basically, the court will factor a child’s preference only when they are mature enough to express themselves without undue influence.
There are generally two reasons why the court does not encourage children to articulate their custody preference. First, asking the child to speak about their preference can reinforce their belief that they are somehow responsible for their parent’s separation. And, second, there is a possibility the child’s opinion will be based on superficial desires rather than what is in their best interests.
The court will generally take a child’s preference into consideration if the underlying reasons contribute to the best interests of the child. For instance, if the child expresses the desire to live with the father because the mother is abusing drugs, then the court may grant that wish.
In your child’s best interests
Custody determinations can be complex. Seeking legal guidance to learn more about how Kentucky family courts determine custody cases can help you safeguard your child’s best interests while negotiating or litigating your child custody case.