At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

In many instances of child custody and changes in custody, parents want to know what effect, if any, their child or children’s preferences will have with the court or the judge. The answer is “it depends.”

The standard in custody cases is “the best interest of the child.” Generally, a parent will be awarded custody if it is in that child’s best interest. A child’s desire in which parent to reside is one of many factors the Court will consider.

A child’s preference can be most effective when both parents are equally “fit,” all living conditions for the child are relatively equal, and the child is fourteen (14) years of age or over.

A child need not be at this magic number, but generally it is a good number. Most fourteen year olds are mature enough to make good witnesses. They take direction well (our firm preps EVERY witness in advance of a hearing or trial) and respond favorably to different stimuli in his or her home life.

I have seen children as young as seven (7) make viable witnesses in custody and change of custody cases. To be a viable a witness, a child needs to be able to be cognizant of his or her family situation, know the difference between a lie and the truth, know there are consequences for lying, and promise to tell the truth.

Also, sometimes child preference can be a factor when there are disparate conditions in both parents’ households and living conditions. Many times, due the multiple factors that a court considers in determining the best interest of the child, decisions are very fact dependent and each case must be evaluated individually.

A child’s preference can be very important in helping a judge determine which parent should have primary custody. If you think that your child’s preference could be a factor in your custody case, contact our office today for a consultation and we will be more than happy to discuss with you the facts and circumstances unique to your case.

***The above is only for information purposes and does not constitute legal advice