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Center for Gender & Sexuality Law


On reflection, the most interesting lesson of this study was derived from our initial assumption that the child's preference would count in some custody decisions despite the absence of statutory direction. Analysis of the data suggested that for courts making custody decisions, the weight accorded the child's preferences was directly correlated to the age of the child. Indeed, the uniformity of judicial response suggested that courts apply an implicit rule favoring the parent preferred for custody by the adolescent child. Further, custody of older children is litigated less frequently than is that of younger children, suggesting that parents may also defer to the wishes of adolescents. These findings suggest that parents and judges are guided in making decisions about custody by a social norm supporting participation by adolescents in important decisions affecting their lives.