There's no perfect answer to this question. Until a child is over age 18 or emancipated, the child's wishes are not necessarily in control of the situation. The judge will consider the wishes of the child, and depending on how mature,how clear and articulate the child is -- and whether the child seems to be acting honestly and without undue influence from either parent -- the judge may give great weight to the child's wishes.
Age 15 or 16 is not a magic agent. However, many parents, lawyers and judges realize that once a child hits age 16 or thereabouts, it's difficult to tell him or her what to do. The issue is even more clouded when the child turns 17. And you're quite correct in recognizing that there's a tug-of-war here between what you're supposed to do under the court order and what the child wants to do.
There are a few ways to approach this in court: If you file a motion, be sure to ask for the judge to interview the child in private. It may also be useful to have the child express his desires to a custody counselor or custody evaluator (psychologist, social worker, therapist, etc.). That person's report can then be submitted to the judge as part of a motion to modify parenting time with the non-custodial parent. (Depending on the dynamics in your family, it may also be useful for the child to communicate directly with the non-custodial parent -- talk it out and see if the non-custodial parent will agree to a "break" in the visitation schedule for awhile.
We have an office in South Brunswick Township and other offices throughout New Jersey. Feel free to contact me if I can assist you.
If you want more information about this, check out my website on New Jersey Custody Law. It’s located at www.CustodyLawyerNewJersey.com
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Also, please visit my blog on Daily Custody Tips at http://dailycustodytip.blogspot.com/
Mark S. Guralnick, Esq.
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