As many people know, divorces can be a very messy ordeal. One thing that can make them even more stressful is if there are children present during the proceeding. Determining which parent gets primary custody of a child can be very difficult, particularly if the child is in their early teenage years. During this time, they’re often able to fully understand what it is that’s happening, even though they’re not yet a legal adult and are still going through a major developmental period in their life.

When is a child old enough to legally choose which parent to live with?

Most people realize that for very small children, the state commonly intervenes and determines which parent will be granted custody. With that said, a common question that many parents have for attorneys is what age a child has to be to determine which parent they want to stay with. This question is generally asked once a child becomes a teenager. Many parents are actually surprised to learn that a minor child, regardless of age, does not have the right to determine which parent they want to stay with.

What say does my child have in regards to custody?

While it does depend on jurisdiction, children that are sufficiently mature enough are indeed able to testify which parent they want to live with, but this does not automatically mean that the judge will rule in the same way. The child’s testimony is used along with a number of other considerations that the court uses when trying to determine what would be in the best interest for the child.

This being said, the court is often very careful when it comes to a child making the decision of which parent they want to live with. Having a child make the decision of which parent they’d rather live with can lead the child to feeling guilty about not choosing the other.

How to determine which parent the child stays with

Children are neither marginalized by not having a right to choose the parent, as the burden of deciding can cause unnecessary stress to the child by making them believe they’ve disappointed one of their parents.

Overall, the responsibility of working out a parenting plan will come down to the parents themselves. Some may choose to work with a professional in the mental health field to assist them in the decision. On the other hand, some parents are not able to work out an arrangement amicably, at which point they’ll generally come to the court with their indecision and have a judge intervene.  Contact us today to explore your legal options at 480-345-2652.