There are many reasons why children with split parents may prefer living in one house to another. Proximity to school or friends, house rules, blended family dynamics and many other factors could impact how they feel about being with one parent, even if they have loving relationships with both. But, should children’s preferences be considered in child custody? This is often not only a legal question, but also can be parenting and personal decision that may factor in the reasons for the preference and the age of the child.

While legal standards do apply, every family’s custody situation is different. Mental health experts caution that there often is no “right” way to handle child custody issues when it comes to teenagers, who may have their own preferences and priorities. In many cases, it may be advisable to let teenagers decide for themselves, assuming all other factors (such as basic structure and support) are equal with both parents.

Even if this might be the best option from the child’s perspective, there is no question that a teenager choosing to spend most of his or her time at one parent’s house can hurt the feelings of the other. There are other times, however, where it may not be in the best interest of the child to live in the child’s perceived preferred household; for example, if there is a abuse or if the relationship with the other parent is being actively undermined. In these cases, it may be necessary to involve the law.

Depending on the circumstances, a court may be tentative about putting a child custody schedule in place for a teenager. Those few years when dependents are old enough to drive themselves and are moving toward adulthood can be tricky for any parenting team, most certainly a divorced one. Those who are concerned about a child custody issue when it comes to an older child should speak with West Virginia lawyer.