Q: Can a 14 year old child decide which parent to live with
A: The short answer is no, but by age 14, the court is to give deference to the wishes of a mature 14 year old. Translated, while the decision where a 14 year old should live still rests with the court, as long as the child shows maturity and an understanding of the decision making process, most judges will look to grant the wishes of the child.
A: Good question, unfortunately the answer is not simple. In New Jersey a 14 year old is allowed to make his or her preferences known to the Court. The Court is required to consider those preferences, but does not have to agree with them. The most efficient way to make sure the Judge known's the child's preference is for one or both sides to request that the Judge interview the child in chambers, without either party or counsel present. That being said, a full custody evaluation done by an expert may be necessary, in which case the child would communicate preference to the expert and it would be included in the expert's report to the Court.
There are many other factors involved with a custody determination. NJ law lists 14 factors, but the court is allowed to consider all circumstances. The best thing to do is to consult with an experienced family law attorney to get advice on your particular situation. Many firms, including mine, offer free consultations.
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