Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With After Divorce?

Divorce is never an easy time for the children. It can even be more challenging if the parents are caught up in a custody battle. At times, the children may want to voice their opinion and choose where they want to live. While it is the court’s responsibility to consider the child’s best interest during a custody case, there are several factors that the court considers before determining which parent will have custody of the child and the terms of the custody agreement.  

If you are in a child custody battle, it may be vital to speak to a child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help you know what the state law says about child custody, what to expect during the case, and if your children can choose which parent to live with after the divorce. Here is what you need to know.

Legal Custody and Physical Placement

Custody cases are mainly about determining if a parent can have full or shared custody and who will have more authority in raising the children. The judge considers several things such as: 

  • Mental health and physical abilities of the parent
  • The child’s ties to the community 
  • History of substance abuse or domestic violence
  • The relationship between each parent and the children 
  • Each parent’s history with the child
  • The parent’s stability
  • The parent’s ability to provide for the child and nurture them

After looking at these factors, the court will consider whether to give joint or full custody. The court will also dictate the terms of the custody. Your lawyer will help argue your case and present evidence where necessary to help get a fair verdict. 

Generally, the children should get guidance and support from both parents. However, if there is evidence of any form of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse and neglect from one parent, the court might favor the non-abusive parent. 

The Law Does Not Consider Children Mature Enough to Make Decisions

Though children may have an excellent reason to choose the parent they prefer to live with, the law recognizes that they are not mature enough to make such decisions. Note that children under the age of 18 are still considered minors. They do not have any authority to make decisions or the final say concerning custody issues. As the child matures, the judge may evaluate their maturity and give more weight to their preference. 

A Child’s Opinion Still Matters

In some cases, the judge might ask to speak to the child in question to know their preferences and why. The court may consider the wishes of the child as they determine their best interest. Even if the ruling may not favor the child’s wishes because of their age, the judge will still put their opinion into consideration. 

This is especially important if there is evidence of neglect and abuse. However, if the child chooses the parent they want to live with because of superficial reasons such as financial gain, liking one parent more than the other, or living with a less strict parent, the judge will not consider their wishes. 

Talk to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer

Solving physical placement disputes is not easy for parents after a divorce. Parents who have a good relationship with their child may want to give their child what they want and wish the court to consider their wishes. However, because the courts resolve custody cases to provide the child with the best, they will only consider the child’s best interest even if the child does not agree with the decision. Talk to an experienced child custody lawyer to know how the law and court work regarding custody cases.

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