When a couple gets divorced, they may have to divide custody of their children. It is typical for custody to be divided so that each parent has parenting time responsibilities (physical custody) and so that they have to share decision-making power (legal custody). But it is also possible for one parent to get sole custody.
In some cases, a child may express a preference about where they live or which parent they spend most of their time with. Is the child allowed to make this decision and ask for that arrangement in court? Parents are sometimes concerned that the child will pick to live with their other parent, affecting the relationship moving forward.
How old is the child?
It is true that the court will sometimes consider a child’s preferences. But a large part of it depends on their age and how well they seem to understand the situation.
For example, if an eight-year-old says that they want to live with their father and not their mother, the court is likely not going to put much weight on this preference – if it is considered at all. The child is still very young and it is best for their development if they are involved with both parents. The court will likely split custody unless there is a reason not to do so.
But if the child is 17 and is about to graduate from high school, they may express a desire to live with one parent – such as the parent who lives closer to their school, meaning the teen can stay in the same grade with their friends. In a case like that, the court may determine that the child is old enough to have a preference and that their development won’t be impacted.
This can be a tricky situation. Parents who are involved need to be sure that they understand all their legal rights.