When parents get divorced, some of the biggest issues they have to settle center around the custody of their child – particularly where that child will live. Will the child rotate between their parent’s homes weekly? Will the child live with one parent and only visit the other on weekends and summer holidays?
There’s a pervasive myth out there that a child – especially a teenager – can choose where they want to live or, in effect, which parent gets custody. That’s not how things work in Massachusetts.
A child’s preference is only one factor that gets considered in a custody decision.
Unlike some states, Massachusetts makes no legal presumption in favor of (or against) the idea of one parent having sole custody of a child. Every case is decided based on its own unique factors. Ultimately, everything centers around what’s in the child’s best interests – and that may or may not coincide with the child’s wishes.
That being said, the court may ask for the child’s input or allow the child to express their preferences. How much those wishes may weigh on the court’s decision can depend upon:
- The child’s age and level of maturity
- The child’s ability to articulate the thoughts behind their wishes
- The reasonableness of the child’s thoughts
Ideally, the court hopes that parents will come to some consensus on what should happen with the child’s physical custody together. If you and your co-parent are able to negotiate, you may want to take your child’s wishes into consideration. Allowing your child to have some say in the situation can help give them a feeling of control in a situation that is otherwise entirely out of their control.
However, parents should not allow the child’s opinion to be the only factor that is considered – and the court most certainly will not do so.
If you’re in the early stages of getting a divorce, try not to panic about custody. A lot may happen before anything is decided, and experienced legal guidance can help you obtain a positive outcome for your case.