Over the years in consulting clients about custody disputes regarding their children, I have been told that the child or children would prefer to be with one parent or the other. Under Michigan law a child’s reasonable preference is but 1 of 12 factors that a court must consider when there is a child custody dispute. A court must always make decisions that are in the child’s best interest. Such a decision may be contrary to what the child or children want. In my experience, a child’s preference can be the one factor that tips the scales in a parent’s favor when all of the other factors are equal. How is a child’s reasonable preference determined? There is no one way to do it, however, in most cases it begins with a private and confidential interview of the child or children by the judge. Normally this takes place in the judge’s chambers and without the parents and/or their lawyers. Some judges record the interview, some don’t. Finally, it should be noted that most judges can tell when a child or children have been coached. It is never a good idea to try to influence the child’s preference.
Reasonable Preference of the Child