Can children express custody preferences in New Hampshire?

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2023 | Child Custody |

After a divorce, most parents strive to prioritize their children’s well-being and make decisions that serve their best interests.

Depending on their age and maturity, children may express a desire to live with one parent over the other or suggest a specific living arrangement. Giving voice to children’s preferences regarding custody arrangements can help families and the court make informed decisions.

Considering children’s opinions

In custody cases, the court can consider a child’s preference, depending on the child’s maturity and judgment. New Hampshire law does not link this consideration to a specific age. Instead, it focuses on the maturity level. In some cases, a younger child might have their wishes taken more seriously than an older, less responsible child.

Children usually do not testify in open court in New Hampshire custody cases. To shield them from the stress of the courtroom, a guardian can represent their interests. If direct input from the child is necessary, judges might opt for a private interview in their chambers. This creates a less intimidating environment for the child.

Assessment of children’s best interests

The court makes the ultimate decision in custody cases by conducting a thorough assessment of what serves the child’s best interests. In New Hampshire, prioritizing best interests entails avoiding the child’s removal from the family home and maintaining family integrity. Additionally, it emphasizes the child’s health and well-being.

While the court does consider mature children’s preferences, they are one factor among many. The court also assesses whether those choices are independent of undue influence. Safe living conditions are paramount. Even if a child has a strong preference, the court can override the child if their chosen living environment is unsuitable.

Courts typically consider these preferences when determining custody in cases where the child’s choice reflects a well-reasoned and mature decision. This approach ensures that custody decisions align not only with parental intentions but also with the child’s welfare and comfort.