When Are Children Old Enough To Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Posted by Jonathan Jerkins | Mar 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

Child custody plans depend a lot on whether the parents decide on custody between themselves or a judge has to decide custody. There are a lot of factors that go into making child custody decisions, including the child's preference for who he or she wants to live with. As the child gets older, their opinion on where they want to live should be given greater consideration. However, the ultimate decision should still be based on what is in the child's best interests.

The reasons your child wants to change custody are just as important as the child's age or maturity. When kids reach their teenage years, the usual conflicts that every kid has with their parents can end with threats about not wanting to live there anymore or worse. A child under the age of 18 is still a minor, and it remains up to the parents to decide the best parenting plan for their kids.

Deciding Where to Live After a Divorce

The initial decision for primary custody is made after separation or divorce. In most cases, school-age children will spend the majority of time with one parent to provide a stable environment for their life and education. Depending on the parents' situation, the child may have regular visits with the other parent or occasional visits during school vacation and summer breaks.

While the family courts in North Carolina do consider the child's preference, it is considered with other factors to decide what will “best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” How much weight to give the child's preference depends on the child's age. There is no statutory age in North Carolina where the courts will leave it up to the child to decide where they want to live. However, as the child gets older, the court is likely to give the child's preference more weight.

In general, young children should not be given the choice of where they want to live. This can even lead to a child regretting their decision or feeling guilty. Depending on a number of relevant factors, including the child's maturity level, a child's preference becomes more important by about age 12 to 13. By the time the child reaches 15 or 16, the court may end up granting custody based on the child's wishes, within reason.

Changes in Custody As the Child Gets Older

As the child gets older, they may express a desire to change the child custody arrangement. Parents should talk about making changes based on a child's preference as the child gets older. However, it is important that the parents talk to their child about why they want to change where they live and the consequences of a change.

As children reach high school-age, they may have more specific future or educational goals, where it would make more sense to live with one parent over the other. This could include safety concerns about the child's environment. Long-term goals should be the focus of why the child wants to change custody arrangments.

Jerkins Family Law

If your child wants to move in with you and change the custody situation, please do not hesitate to call Jerkins Family Law for assistance. We are committed to providing passionate representation for you and your family. We can help make sure your interests are protected after a divorce or separation. Visit our dedicated child custody page and contact us today so we can guide you to a better solution.

About the Author

Jonathan Jerkins

Jonathan "Jay" Jerkins, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, intentionally focuses his practice on all aspects of North Carolina family law litigation and negotiations. Jay was admitted to the practice of law in North Carolina in 2014.


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