Custody Officer’s Oblication To Consider Factors Interviewing Children
In a 2021 Pennsylvania Superior Court appellate case, K.B. V. M.F., the Pennsylvania
Superior Court has spoken to the custom, in many Custody Officer level proceedings, of not
interview children in making an interim or final custody determination.
One of the sixteen custody factors the court is obligated to consider is the “well-reasoned
preference of the child”, in making a custody order. In the vast majority of cases, custody officers, even if it is requested by a party or attorney, deny a request that the child or children be interviewed at the level of Court. Parenthetically, this practice likely arose out of the need to “move cases along” at this level.
In K.B., a parent requested that the Custody Officer interview children to assess their
preference in that case. This request was denied by the Officer. A temporary order was entered and the matter ended up in front of a judge for final disposition.
The judge in the case adopted the recommendation of the Custody Officer and entered a
final order. The parent wanting the court to interview the children appealed to the Superior Court.
The appellate court stated the custody officer was required to consider the 16 custody
factors, one of which is the preference of the child. Since the judge in the case adopted the
recommendation of the custody officer and the custody officer did not consider the 16 factors, the case was sent back down the custody officer to take further testimony in the case.
Note that most judges rarely simply adopt the custody officer’s recommendation without a judge independently considering the 16 custody factors. Generally, children of sufficient age are routinely interviewed by a trial judge.