When can my child decide which parent they want to live with?

How old do the children have to be to testify in court to tell the judge who they want to live with?

Many parents often want their child(ren) to tell the court or the judge their preference regarding custody.  Whether the court allows this will depend on the age of the child.  While each state has it’s own rules generally a court will consider a child’s preferences if they are 14 or older.  However, I am not aware of any state which allows a child under 18 years of age to have the exclusive ability to decide where they want to live.  The only time this would happen for a child under 18 years of age would be if and only if the child is emancipated (considered an independent adult for purposes of living apart from either parent).

Further, the courts do not want to put undue pressure on the children to choose which parent they would prefer to live with.  The court’s do not want children to be forced to take sides, often children  will tell one parent who wants to be the custodial parent that they want to live with that parent because they do not want to hurt their feelings.  The result is that this puts children in the middle of a custody battle between the parents when they are not mature enough to make decisions that would be considered in their best interests.

Generally, a parent can ask the court to consider their child’s preferences, but stated above this does not mean that the court will make that the determining factor in a custody case.

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Posted in Child Custody, Courtroom Preparation, Divorce, Raising Children

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