When Maryland parents have minor children together, divorce is not really the end of their relationship with each other. It simply marks a significant change in the relationship dynamics.
Unless there are unusual and concerning circumstances such as drug addiction or a family history of domestic violence, the parents will have to share custody until the children turn 18 and will still see each other at family functions for the rest of their lives.
Typically, parents either need to negotiate their own custody arrangements or go to court to have a judge help them create a parenting plan. If you go to court, will your children have a say in the custody order the judge creates?
Older children can influence a judge’s decision
When you look at the list of factors that a judge must consider when deciding what would be in the best interests of the children in your family, you will notice that the child’s preferences are on that list. However, typically children need to be at least 16 for a judge to give their opinion on custody matters much weight. A judge will determine if the child is mature enough for their opinion to influence their choices.
Even if a child expresses a strong and clear preference for one parent, the judge will still expect them to spend time with the other parent to maintain that important relationship.
Needing to state a preference can be stressful
Parents can put a lot of pressure on their children if they force them to play a role in a litigated custody matter. The more intense the fight between the parents becomes, the bigger the emotional toll the teenager’s involvement could have on them.
While it can be difficult to do, you and your ex should think about putting your children’s needs first and setting aside your feelings toward one another. If you are capable of working together, you can shield your children from the stressful obligation to speak up regarding their custody wishes. You and your ex can factor in your child’s known preferences into the custody arrangements you make with one another without making them feel like they have to choose between the two of you.
Learning more about what matters in Maryland custody cases will help you take the right steps for your family’s future.