At what age can a child decide which parent theywant to live with?

Asked on November 28, 2011 under Family Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no legal age for a minor to make such a decision. Technically, until they reach age 18 the court will decide which parent they should live with. However, once a child turns 12 or so, their input is given greater weight by the court. 

Yet, just because a child expresses which parent they want to live does not mean that it will happen. The courts look at what is termed "the best interests of the child".  In making its decision the court will ask:

  • Is the child mature enough to understand the meaning of changing households and the repercussions that follow the change?
  • Can the child clearly state why they want to live with the other parent (ie are their reasons valid)?
  • Would living with the other parent drastically affect the child’s life – positively or negatively?
  • Can the non-custodial parent provide stability in the child’s life?
  • Is there an obvious benefit or long-term gain with living with the other parent?

Courts do not like to overturn child custody arrangements. So more than likely a custodial parent won't loose their rights unless the court finds them to be an unfit parent (although the non-custodial parent may be awarded more visitation).


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.