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How Much Weight Does a Child’s Preference Carry in Parenting Time Decisions?

June 19, 2020

When your children spend part of their time with you and part of their time with your ex-spouse, it is easy to worry that your children like living with your ex more than they like living with you. Maybe your ex has a swimming pool and a PlayStation, while you live in an apartment that is barely big enough for your child to stretch out on the couch and play video games on his phone. Maybe your ex promises to get your children a puppy, but you are so allergic to dogs that you sneeze when your neighbors walk their dog past your house. Maybe your ex lets your kids eat ice cream for breakfast, but you consider fruit punch junk food. The good news is that parenting is not a competition; the courts award parenting time based on the children’s physical and emotional wellbeing and on the parents’ time commitments, not on the principle of bending to the children’s every whim. The children’s preference is only one of many factors that the court considers when setting a parenting plan. The family law attorneys at Iwanyshyn & Associates in Greater Pittsburgh can help you develop a parenting plan that is acceptable to you, your ex-spouse, and your children.

Child’s Preference and Other Factors That Affect Parenting Plan Decisions

Pennsylvania law provides for sixteen factors on the basis of which the courts assign parenting time. The child’s reasonable preference is only one of those factors. Some of the factors involve protecting the child from abuse. Others aim to cause as little disruption as possible to the child’s home life and routine; for example, the child should continue to spend school nights with Mom if she has been helping him with his homework since kindergarten. Likewise, the court rewards you with more parenting time if you encourage a healthy relationship between your children and your ex-spouse. Extended family is also a factor; if your relatives live out of town, the court is likely to assign you time to visit them during the holidays, but if they live in town, the court will assume that your children have time to spend with them on normal, non-holiday weekends. One thing that is not a factor is gender; the courts do not assume, for example, that young children belong with their mothers or that teen boys belong with their fathers.

How Judges Ask Children About Their Parenting Time Preferences

The older the child, the more likely the court is to seek his or her opinion about parenting time; teenagers have clear reasons for preferring to spend time with one parent or the other. Maybe one parent is more encouraging of the teen’s participation in an extracurricular activity, or maybe the teen does not get along with his or her stepparent. To ensure that the teen can be candid about his or her wishes without fear of offending one or the other parent, the judge meets with the teen in the judge’s office while the parents are not present. The parents’ attorneys can be present to ensure that the judge is not trying to influence the teen’s answers one way or the other.

Iwanyshyn & Associates Helps You Set an Appropriate Parenting Plan for Teens

Sometimes co-parenting gets more complicated the closer your children get to adulthood. Contact Iwanyshyn & Associates in Greater Pittsburgh & Western PA for help resolving parenting plan disputes. 🡺 412-419-3448