The Role of a Child’s Preference
When parents get divorced, one of the biggest questions that needs to be answered is what happens to the children. Which parent will they live with? In Rhode Island, the law states that a child has the right to pick which parent they want to live with. This is known as a child’s reasonable preference. Keep reading to learn how this rule applies in Rhode Island custody cases and what factors a court will consider when making a decision.
Old Enough to Give Preference
Rhode Island law says that if a child is old enough and of “sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience” to make a sound judgment, the court may give significant weight to the child’s reasonable preference. The court will not automatically rule in favor of the parent that the child wants to live with, but it is one factor that will be considered by the judge when making a custody decision.
For a child’s reasonable preference to be considered, they must be able to articulate why they want to live with one parent over the other. Simply saying “I don’t like mommy/daddy” is not enough – the child must be able to explain their reasons for wanting to live with one parent over the other. The court will also look at whether or not the child has been influenced by either parent in making their decision.
Ultimately, the overarching consideration in determining custody is what is in the child’s best interests.
Does Age Matter?
There is no hard and fast rule about what age a child must be in order to have their preference considered by the court – it depends on each individual case. In general, younger children are less likely to have their wishes given significant weight than older children, simply because they are not considered to be developmentally able to make such a decision.
That said, even very young children may have their preferences given consideration if there is evidence that they understand what it means to live with one parent or the other (for example, if they express a preference for living with the parent they see more often).
Ask Questions of an Attorney
Custody decisions are never easy, but understanding the role that a child’s preference plays in those decisions can help you be better prepared for what to expect. If you have questions about how a child’s preference may play into custody determinations in your case, ask an experienced Rhode Island family law attorney. At Assalone & Associates, we can help you understand your options related to child custody and help you find a solution that meets your needs and those of your child.
Learn more about how we can help or schedule a consultation by calling (401) 589-5599 or by visiting our website.