If you would like to learn more about the influence a child may have on child custody determinations, reach out to our experienced Monmouth County child custody attorneys today. Our legal team is on your side no matter what.

How old must a child be to have a say in child custody?

Recognize that all states allow judges to consider the preference of a child in a custody matter, as long as they deem that child sufficiently mature. It is important to mention that most states do not set a certain age, including New Jersey. Because of this, judges are able to make their own case-by-case judgments based on a child’s maturity level.

How does a child’s opinion fit into custody determinations?

In New Jersey, a judge never has to award custody in accordance with a child’s wishes if he or she deems that it would not benefit the child. This means that other factors, including each parent’s criminal history and bond with the child, are always regarded.

Furthermore, a judge will try and assess whether a child’s preference for one parent is because of the persuasion or leniency of that parent, which would provide the choice less of a basis from the court’s perspective.

For instance, a 14-year-old may not get to live with her mom as she wishes if evidence shows the mother lets her drive without a license. On the other hand, a 12-year-old with concrete reasons for choosing a proper parent could have an adequate influence on a judge’s decision.

How do children share these opinions?

Children typically do not attest to their choices in court because the conditions can be emotional and scary.

Rather, they normally communicate their thoughts in conversation with the judge, a custody evaluator, or someone appointed by the court to represent their interests (like a guardian ad litem).

Interviews with the judge will occur in the judge’s office and are thus understood as in-chambers or in-camera hearings. In this situation, a court reporter and the child’s legal representative are in attendance. In some cases, the parents’ attorneys are also permitted in the room, but not the parents.

Some judges ask the child directly who they would like to live with, while others only ask related questions like, “what do you do for fun with your dad?” In some states, both parents must consent before the child may speak with a judge. Give our firm a call today to learn more. Our skilled Monmouth County family law attorneys are on your side.


If you require strong legal representation for matters of divorce and family law in Rumson, Monmouth County, or anywhere in New Jersey, contact The Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.