Report SD Amongst States that Restrict Childs Custody Choice / Public Information Service
According to a new report, most parents assume that a child can always express a preference in a custody battle. However, 13 states do not require that the court system take the child’s opinion into account. (Adobe Stock)
20th November 2020
PIERRE, SD – More than a dozen states, including South Dakota, do not require a judge to consider a child’s preference in custody decisions, according to a new analysis of these laws.
The report was published by CustodyXChange, which develops software for people who manage custody issues. The company’s executive editor Shea Drefs said she’s been reviewing a number of guidelines in the U.S. to ensure parents are fully aware of the legal requirements in their respective state. The latest evidence showed that in 13 states, child preference does not have to be considered when the court makes a final custody decision.
Drefs cited two conflicting positions at the heart of the matter.
“I think everyone would probably agree, to some extent, that it would be nice for a child to have a say in their life,” she said, “but it’s also understandable that we don’t want the child in the middle of it Custody battle. “
She said these are factors that South Dakota judges need to consider and they still have the option to consider a child’s preferences even if they don’t have to. Two neighboring states, Montana and Wyoming, are also among the 13 states that do not have this requirement.
For all states that require a child’s input, it is only allowed if the child is considered mature enough to have a reasonable opinion. According to the report, most states don’t offer age-specific guidelines regardless of what custody laws they have on the books. Drefs said the South Dakota judges also belong to that group.
“In some cases they may be listening to what the child has to say and in others they might not,” she said. “And probably age will be one of the things you watch out for. But the law in South Dakota has no guidance.”
She said the aim of the report is not to advocate changes to the law, but rather to create more clarity for parents and legal professionals. One of the most recent attempts at updating custody laws occurred in South Dakota earlier this year when proponents tabled a bill that focused on equal physical custody. This bill failed in the Senate.