When determining an award of custody, Pennsylvania Courts consider sixteen (16) factors as listed and described under 23 Pa. C.S. § 5328. One of those factors, specifically, 23 Pa. C.S. § 5328(7) provides that the “well-reasoned preference of the child based on the child’s maturity and judgment” be considered when making a decision concerning custody.
Common sense would dictate that the older the minor child subject to a custody action, the greater the evidentiary value his or her preference would have for the presiding judge in a custody hearing. But for a few exceptions, the foregoing is accurate for obvious reasons. First and foremost, the older minor child would be more able to articulate his/her preference than would a much younger child. Second, the older child’s stated preference would more likely impact a decision concerning custody because it would be the manifestation of a more mature and developed intellect, based on age.
While the statutory language does provide guidance– at least in confirming that the child’s preference may impact a decision regarding custody– it is, by design, vague in order to allow for a case-by-case factual determination. In line with that principle, our courts have never provided a precise age in which a child’s preference would take precedence over any other factor.
However, recent case law explicitly acknowledges the extraordinarily high probative value of the well-reasoned preference of an older minor child in a custody matter. On more than one occasion recently, our Superior Court held that, assuming the households of both parents were equally suitable, the preference of an “older child” or “teenager” would tip the scale in favor of that parent.
If you need any assistance or have any questions about a potential custody matter, feel free to reach out to us at Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat, PC. We have many attorneys here who handle family law matters and custody cases.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation.