Child custody is an emotionally charged area of divorce. You need to ensure your child is legally and financially protected and also emotionally stable throughout the process. Unfortunately, parents are often confused and overwhelmed through the process and want to fight. Sometimes they think it is best for the child to come into the divorce process and actually talk with the judge during hearings. Working out of our office in Langhorne, we help parents in Bucks and Montgomery counties work through the complicated issues and negotiate the best arrangements for their minor children.
First and foremost, a judge does not have to make decisions in your divorce. We can work closely with you and your spouse on your settlements and negotiate any differences. A judge only needs to get involved when you do not agree.
If you think it is a good idea to get your children involved in the decision-making process we always warn you to take great caution. Do not wage a war with your spouse and put your child in the middle, as that can cause short-term problems and long-term consequences for your child. It is best to make the decision after consulting with a therapist or guidance counselor. Work with them to find a good way to approach the situation with your child.
If your child is going to go in front of the judge, we cannot predict how the judge is going to consider the information. In PA, a judge may consider what a child has to say, but has great leniency when it comes to actually considering a child’s thoughts:
“The weight to be accorded a child’s preference varies with the age, maturity and intelligence of that child, together with the reasons given for the preference. Moreover, as children grow older, more weight must be given to the preference of the child.”Wheeler v. Mazur, 793 A.2d 929 (Pa. Super. 2002)
Where will the judge interview your child during your divorce?
For the well-being of the child, a judge may decide to have a more relaxed conversation so the child is spared testifying in open court. Regardless of where the meeting takes place, attorneys for both parents must be present. Navigating this part of a highly contentious divorce can be difficult and should only be done with a highly experienced legal team.
Here in Bucks County and Montgomery County, PA, our judges are excellent at working with children. And all lawyers should work together to ensure that children are not being forced to choose between two parents – especially when the parents are already fighting, possibly within the presence of that child.