CAN A CHILD OVER 12 DECIDE WHICH PARENT THEY WANT TO LIVE WITH?
The preference of your children cannot determine where they will live. That said, if your children are a little older and more mature, their preference might be considered. Ultimately, if their preference does not serve their best interests, a judge will not factor this into your custody arrangement. Even if the judge on your case were to consider your children’s opinions, he or she would also consider several other factors before making a decision, including:
- The overall health and mental wellbeing of each parent and the children
- The relationship between the children and each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide for the children
- The willingness of each parent to help facilitate a relationship between the children and their other parent
- If there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse
- If either parent has a history of substance abuse
- If either parent has a history of interfering with the other’s visitation rights
- The educational and social record of the children
- The individual needs of each child
Why Children Are Not Allowed to Determine Custody
Children need healthy, consistent, and stable environments to thrive and, unfortunately, their preference might not be based on which parent can best provide that. Children might prefer to live with the parent who has more lax rules, a nicer home, a cooler car, or provides more allowance money. If a parent is trying to alienate the children from their other parent, this could also affect their decision. Therefore, judges generally do not give a lot of weight to a child’s preference.
Moreover, children already have a lot on their plate during a divorce. Having to choose a parent to live with will only increase their anxiety during this difficult time, which is why it is the court’s job to determine what is in their best interests.