If I’m a divorced mother of 2, what age do the children have to be in order to decide who they want to live with?

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If I’m a divorced mother of 2, what age do the children have to be in order to decide who they want to live with?

Asked on December 13, 2012 under Family Law, Tennessee

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Actually, there is no legal age for a minor child to make such a decision. Until they reach the age of 18, the court will decide which parent they should live with. Tht having been said, once a child turns 12 or so, their preference as to which parent they want to live with is given greater weight by the court.

In making its determination, the court will look at what is in "the best interests of the child". In making such a decision the court will ask:

  • Is the child mature enough to understand the meaning of changing households?
  • Can the child clearly state vakid reasons as to why they want to live with the other parent?
  • Would living with the other parent drastically affect the child’s life (either 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?

The fact is that courts do not like to overturn child custody arrangements that are already in place. Therefore, 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).


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