child custody

Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With?

Petition to Change Custody

According to Md. Code Ann., Family Law § 9-103, a child that is 16 years of age or older can petition the court to change their custody determination. They can file the petition under their own name and do not need a guardian or another third party to proceed with the filing. After submitting the petition, a hearing will be held to determine whether their request to change which parent has custody should be granted.

Can Children Express Their Preference in Maryland Custody Proceedings?

During your child custody proceedings, your child can also express their preference concerning who has physical custody. The court will consider a child’s preference if the child is deemed old and/or mature enough to make a reasonable choice, and the judge will determine whether a child is mature enough on a case-by-case basis.

If they can prove they have a clear understanding of what is going on and can clearly express their opinion, a child can share their preference with the court. Their preference will be taken into consideration; however, it is only one factor of many that will be taken into account.

Do Children Have to Testify About Their Custodial Preferences?

Because it can be difficult to testify in front of their parents, children are allowed to speak with the judge or their appointed guardian ad litem concerning their custodial preferences. In some cases, the guardian ad litem will testify on behalf of the child, and they are expected to share the child’s preference even if it differs from their recommendation concerning custody. Social workers, therapists, and other mental health professionals may also be asked to testify regarding the child’s preference.

Determining the Best Interest of the Child

In child custody cases, the best interest of the child is the court’s first priority. In determining what is in the child’s best interest, they will review a host of factors, such as:

  • Each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Each parent’s home environment
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • Each parent’s parental fitness
  • The child’s age, sex, health, and physical and spiritual well-being
  • Each’s parent’s current relationship with the child
  • Each parent’s financial situation
  • The child’s preference
  • Any instance of domestic violence or substance abuse
  • Any other factors deemed relevant

Retain Our Firm

At Matthew Penick Law, our family law team is experienced and equipped to help clients navigate their child custody cases successfully. Once you retain our team, we discuss your goals and desires concerning your custodial arrangement with the other party, and we can help you:

  • Understand your legal options and possible case outcomes
  • Develop a case strategy
  • File the necessary court documents
  • Collect evidence for the court (which can help support your interests and influence the court’s determination regarding the child’s best interests)
  • Communicate with the other party and their attorney
  • Adhere to courtroom etiquette and procedures
  • Alleviate stress because you know you’re in capable hands

Our attorney (Matthew) is known for being a compassionate, experienced advocate for his clients. With over a decade of legal experience, Matthew (along with our entire team) is dedicated to supporting clients as they navigate this new season of their lives and the complexities of the legal system.

If you need help with your child custody case, schedule your free case consultation today by calling (410) 618-0863 or reaching out online.