Sharing custody brings many challenges, especially when children are young and cannot properly express when they would like to see each parent. As your child gets older, they may begin voicing their opinions on your custody schedule, and you may think it is best to leave custody up to your child.
The answer is both yes and no
West Virginia, like most states, does not make custody decisions solely based on what the child wants. However, the child’s wishes are one of several factors taken into consideration when the child reaches age 14.
In addition to being age 14, the child must be able to make an intelligent and voluntary statement about custody. A custody judge will likely determine if testimony is intelligent and voluntary after hearing your child testify and learning a bit about their background.
For example, a parent may coerce a child to tell a judge what the parent wants to hear. If evidence showing the coercion is presented to the court, the judge may find the child’s testimony is not voluntary.
Children under age 14
The wishes of a child under age 14 who is suitably mature are still considered by the court; however, the child’s testimony is given much less weight due to their younger age. The younger children are, the less the court will consider their testimony about which parent they want to live with.
In fact, if you have very young children, it is best to leave them out of the custody decisions. Most young children cannot give articulate, reasonable testimony about which parent they want to live with.
Keep younger children out of custody decisions
You may actually turn a judge against you if you insist on your young child testifying. Judges typically frown upon parents who put their children in the middle of custody battles.
Overall, although your child can potentially give input into their custody schedule after age 14, a custody decision is never truly up to the child. Custody attorneys can speak with children and help parents decide the best strategy for obtaining the best custody schedule.