Can A Child Choose Which Parent They Will Live With?

There is a lot of misinformation about child custody disputes. Many clients are confused about when a child can choose to live with a parent.  In all child custody disputes, the Court considers many factors, including the child’s preference on which parent should be awarded custody.

One of those factors MAY be the child’s preference. However, the Court will weigh the child’s preference based on not only the child’s age, but the maturity of the child. As we all know, some children who are 13 years old are more mature than a child who is 15 years old.

The general rule is that the older a child is, the more influence a child’s preference will have on where they live. A child between the age of 13 and 16, will also have their preference seriously considered. Certainly, most Courts will state that once a child turns 16 years of age, their preference will be strongly considered. However, this is not an absolute rule, and a Court can decide that even a 16- or 17-year old’s preference is not to be followed or considered.

There is one absolute, once a child turns 18 years of age, they have the absolute right to decide where they want to live. This is because for legal custody purposes, once a child turns 18 years of age, they are considered an adult.  In contrast, in New York, a parent is obligated to pay child support until a child is 21 years old.  So, although where the child decides to live is up to the child, that decision will have a great effect on who pays child support.

If a child is younger than 13 years of age, most Courts will give little weight to that child’s preference.  However, even for younger children, there is still no absolutes.

What one Judge once said is true of all child custody cases: “There are no rules when it comes to child custody.”

Child custody and visitation can be a very difficult road to navigate. David Badanes, Esq. and the Badanes Law Office, P.C., have represented numerous clients and helped them navigate child custody issue in their divorce or in their family court action. If you are seeking a divorce or custody, contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office, P.C.  David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office’s phone number is 631-239-1702, email at or visit our web site:  The Badanes Law Office has offices in Northport and Uniondale.

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Understanding Forensic Evaluation Reports In Child Custody Disputes

If there is a child custody dispute, the Court may order that a forensic evaluation be conducted. A forensic evaluation is an evaluation done by a psychiatrist who will then produce a forensic report for the Court.

The psychiatrist, who will sometimes be referred to as the “forensic evaluator” will consider the factors in determining who should be the custodial parent. In addition, the psychiatrist will determine what is in the best interest of the children as it relates to child custody and parenting time (visitation).

The psychiatrist will typically see the children alone and will observe their interaction with each parent. They usually will also see each parent alone and may give certain psychiatric tests to each parent and sometimes to the children.

The psychiatrist, unlike a court, can consider almost anything in rendering their report. This would include considering hearsay evidence. They could also consider unverified Facebook posts or other social media postings.

A forensic evaluation is typically very expensive. It can also take a long time to obtain one. This is why forensic evaluations are not done in every divorce where there is a child custody dispute.

As stated above, once the psychiatrist completes their evaluation, they will produce a forensic report. The report will usually be very extensive and very long.

Now that you have a forensic report – can you read it? The answer, at least in Suffolk and Nassau Counties is generally “no”. In New York City and in most other parts of New York, the answer is “it depends on the Judge.”

No matter where your divorce is, your attorney has an absolute right to read the forensic report.  Your attorney, while reading the report, can take as many notes as they want. However, at least on Long Island, your child custody lawyer may not make a copy of the report and they will not be given a copy of the report.

Yet, virtually every Long Island Judge will not allow the parties to read the actual report. The Court will allow the attorney to discuss the contents of the report with their client. The attorney can also show their client their attorney’s notes.

What if you do not have an attorney, and you are representing yourself pro-se? Although, there is no reported case on this fact, it would seem that a person representing themselves, would have the opportunity to read the report.

David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office has represented and helped numerous clients in their divorce and in their child custody disputes.  David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office has the experience to guide you through your divorce.  If you need an experienced Long Island family lawyer, please contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office at 631-239-1702 or email at We have offices in Northport, Garden City, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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