What age can a child decide with which parent she wants to live with?

UPDATED: Aug 23, 2011

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What age can a child decide with which parent she wants to live with?

My daughter lives in AR with her mother whom has kept us apart for many years. She is 17 and does not go to school Now she wants to live with me but her mom keeps threateingn her to make her go live with grandma. I pay my child support and have a legal divorce decree that states I have rights. What can I do? Can I go pick her up for my visitation considering she’s not in school?

Asked on August 23, 2011 Missouri


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your situation but it is so nice to hear that you have maintained a relationship and continued to support your child despite the horrible way her Mother has behaved.  First, let's start with the generalities of the law that will apply.  Your daughter is absolutely old enough to testify as to her wishes to live with you and for the court to take her seriously.  Now, the court does not want to hear that she wants to live with you because her Mother is too strict.  Instead they want to hear that she want to establish a relationship with you as her father which her Mother has tried to road block all these years (be careful in that it could backfire against you as to why you did not go to court to enforce the rights you say the agreement gives you, although you can say that you did not want to put your daughter in the middle of a battle with your ex).  Next issue is that custody determinations are made by the court in the county where the child resides.  So because she is physically located in Arkansas, that is where the hearing must be.  Unless you enforce the agreement and visitation and she comes to MO.  Then you can bring the proceeding there.  But do not just go "pick her up."  Enforce the agreement.  Good luck.

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