I am frequently asked by clients about when a child gets to decide which parent they will live with. Often, parents inform me that they know that the child gets to decide at a particular age. However, there is no simple answer. There are many factors the court must consider when deciding child custody or visitation.
A judge will decide custody and visitation for a child based upon the standard of the best interests of the child. A child’s preference for custody is one factor that may be considered by the court. When the child is young, the court seldom pays attention to the child’s expressed preference. As the child gets older, the court gives increased weight to the preference. When the child is 14, the court generally inquires of the child’s preference. This doesn’t mean that the Judge automatically does what the child wants. The Judge must still consider many factors in addition to the preference of the child. For many children, when they are 16 or 17, their preference may become so compelling that the court appears to decide solely on this one factor.