In North Carolina, the breakdown of a marriage can have many ramifications, not the least of which influence children. A divorce can be complex and challenging, especially for the kids. Regardless of their age and maturity level, it can leave them wondering about their future. The living arrangements, custodial determination, parenting time and whether the parents can cordially discuss the various issues that inevitably arise is key. In some instances, the child may have a preference regarding custody. Understanding how a child’s wishes are factored in is imperative. As with any legal case, having professional assistance can be vital.
In the divorce proceeding, the judge can choose to allow the child to be heard as to where he or she wants to live. When deciding on custody, the fundamental aspect is if the child’s best interests will be served. A child who is of sufficient maturity and can express that preference in the context of best interests can weigh in. It is important to know the two circumstances under which the parent can have a child testify. They involve specific incidents and what the child prefers.
There may be issues of abuse or negligence on the part of a parent. The child can testify as to various incidents that might have led to the desire to live with a certain parent. Before this is considered, the judge will assess if the child can comprehend the gravity of the situation and knows how essential it is to be truthful. Regarding preferences, the judge will also analyze the child’s ability to understand the importance of being honest and if he or she is at the age of discretion where there is adequate maturity to give an opinion. Teens may have more say than a younger child as to where they will live.
Age is not specifically mentioned in the law, but the judge can gauge the parent’s competence if, for example the child appears too young to take part in the process. In general, the judge will not let the child watch the trial and will speak to the child in chambers so there is no overt or subtle pressure from the parents. Child custody can be difficult, but there is often middle ground where the parents can negotiate. If that is not possible and the child wants to speak, this can be done if the situation calls for it. In any child custody case or other aspect of family law, it is wise to have legal assistance.