Family courts in Pennsylvania are obligated to make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. However, there are times when a child will express a desire to reside with a noncustodial parent.
There are many factors that may determine if a child's opinion will be considered. This can include the laws of the state in which the child resides, the degree of maturity the child exhibits and the willingness of the noncustodial parent to have physical custody. If there is no existing child custody order or agreement, a child can reside with the parent of his or her choice as long as both parents are in accord and the arrangement is within the confines of state law.
The family courts will not factor in a child's desire to reside with the noncustodial parent when making custody decisions unless it determines that the child has enough maturity to state a preference. Some states require that all custody decisions by the court include an assessment of the child's best interests. There may be cases in which the child's choice for physical custody may not be in his or her best interests.
When younger children indicate that they want to reside with a noncustodial parent, the court may have to determine if the desire is a result of custodial interference. During their visitation time, it is not unusual for noncustodial parents to try to persuade their child to say they would rather live with them.
A family law attorney may work to ensure that clients receive the child custody terms they are seeking. This may require litigation if the couple has not been able to come to an agreement.