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Can a child ask the judge to live with one parent over the other?

During a Connecticut divorce or some time after a family court judge has issued a child custody order, a child might talk about preferring to live with one parent instead of another. Children's wishes are often a factor in custody orders, but judges prioritize children's best interests. Along with the child's preference, judges must consider each parent's ability to meet their child's developmental needs and the child's relationship with each of his or her parents.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in a 1993 case that judges may decline to comply with a child's preference under the child's best interests standard. The ruling said that judges are not legally obligated to grant custody to the parent a child wants to live with but are only obligated to consider the child's wishes when issuing a custody order.

Judges presiding over other child custody cases have declined to grant a child's request to live with the parent they preferred to live with based upon his or her age. A judge may believe that a child is too young to make an intelligent decision about which parent he or she should live with. A 1984 ruling said that a child's preferences regarding custody and visitation matters need not always influence a judge's decision, depending on their age and their ability to express their wishes intelligently.

Parents may have good reasons to be unsatisfied with the outcome of a custody dispute or to believe their child's reasons for preferring to live with their other parent are unsound, but they may be unable to defend their positions in court. Attorneys may be able to request investigations or take other actions on their clients' behalf to protect their children's best interests.

Source: Connecticut General Assembly, "Child Custody", Mary M. Janicki, May 3, 2011

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