You’ve got a strong bond with your child, but you also work a demanding career. Your ex has already made it clear that they intend to ask for primary custody on the grounds that they are available more of the time and that they often perform more of the parenting duties. They take the kids to medical appointments and pick them up from school when they don’t feel well.
While you recognize that your former spouse has invested substantial work in the care and maintenance of your family throughout your marriage, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be an active parent now that you’re getting a divorce. When does your child’s preference start to influence the way the courts rule on custody matters during a divorce? Can your child ask the court to live with you instead of with your ex?
There is no age at which a child’s preferences start mattering
In some states, there is a specific age at which the courts consider the wishes of the child when allocating parental rights and responsibilities during a contentious divorce. Maryland is not among those states.
Instead, the rule regarding a child’s preference in custody proceedings is interpretive. The judge needs to look at the child’s age and behavior and determine whether they are mature enough to make an informed decision about custody and the implications it will have on their life.
It is common for adolescents and teenagers to have strong opinions about custody outcomes during divorce proceedings. The judge may decide to speak with the child to determine whether their preferences will influence the final determination.
The focus is on what is best for the children, not on what they or the parents want
Divorce is often a difficult time for children and parents. Those currently living through the emotional tensions of a contested divorce may not look at the bigger picture, such as the effects of parental fighting on teenage mental health.
As such, the courts will put less of an emphasis on the preferences and wishes of the individuals in the family and more of a focus on the situation that they believe will provide the best outcome for everyone.
You may need to consider the idea that part-time parenting may be the best option, especially if you have a demanding career that would prevent you from taking a sudden leave of absence if your children need you. Alternately, you could commit to being more available as a parent and push for more parenting time if you think that will benefit the children more in the long run.