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Does your child get to choose where they live?

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Child Custody And Support

If you are getting a divorce and resolving physical custody of your child, you may be concerned that they have a strong preference about where they want to live. Maybe they have told you that they want to live with you and not their other parent, and they have legitimate reasons for that preference. Maybe they have said they want to live with your ex and not with you, but you do not want to entirely lose your relationship with your child. Can your child just choose not to see you?

Your child may be allowed to voice his or her opinion in court, depending on various factors such as their age, level of maturity, and the reasons for their preference. Children can have some say in this process, especially teenagers, and their opinions may be considered. The court is trying to do what is in the best interests of the child, and preferences do play into that. However, great weight is given to the factors and circumstances surrounding why a child may have a preference; perhaps even more weight than the preference itself.

The court can make another decision

In short: it is not often that a child is simply given ultimate “say” in where he or she will live. Courts do not want parents to put that burden on a child in the first place. It is the job of the parents to advocate for the custodial arrangements they believe are in a child’s best interests. The court will still create a custody order that it determines is in the best interests of a child given the evidence presented. Often, this can be a schedule different from what a child’s preferences are — children may not necessarily know what are in their own best interests.

After all, the court is looking at a lot of various factors when determining what will be in the child’s best interests. That child’s preference is just one factor, but it also includes things like the parents’ living situations, their mental and physical health, the child’s health and special needs, and much more. The court will weigh all of these factors together carefully. Modern courts generally try to keep both parents involved in a child’s life after divorce unless it would be dangerous to do so.

That said, this can certainly be a complex process, so be sure you know what legal steps to take.

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