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At what age is it appropriate to let a child decide which parent they want to live with?

My step daughter has a much better and closer relationship with her father and is most vocal at times about wishing she lived with us full time and just visited her mothers house rather than the other way around. She just turned 10. At what age should she be able to make this choice and when do the courts take her wishes into consideration if her mother was to appose this decision?

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Asked by Anonymous at 1:53 PM on Apr. 15, 2011 in Parenting Debate

Answers (19)
  • According to most Courts of Family law. 12 is the age they can decide for themselves.

    Answer by vbruno at 1:54 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • Most people will tell you they can choose legally at 12 but that is false. Children never get to decide who they want to live it. In the end it is up to a judge and if the judge is willing to consider what the child wants. I am going through this right now myself. My son is 11 and lives with his dad, but wants to come back with us. His dad refuses. Our lawyer said my son can take the stand but its no guarantee.

    Answer by gemgem at 1:56 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • The courts wish to hear her testimony at age 12 -- however that does not mean her wish will be granted -- It is still up to the judge to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

    Answer by BaileysMom476 at 1:56 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • yeah well I agree she is probably old enough to make that decision, I agree with vbruno that I believe most courts don't take the child's wishes into account until they are 12. Hopefully the mother of the child would see she is better off with you two but if not I don't think you can do much for a few years and then if it is a fight you have to consider whether fighting for it is worth the emotional toll and alienation it will cause with the bio mom and on the child. Maybe just getting an extra day or two a week would be less threatening to the bio mom than an attack on her rights? I know with my step son his bio mom never felt threatened by me because I always tried to include her - this freed her up to feel okay to shirk her motherly duties and give him to me more. She didn't really want him but had we fought her, she would have fought back. Inch by inch we ended up with him because she was happy to party and withdraw.

    Answer by 8Tinkerboo8 at 1:59 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • Thanks ladies. I thought it was age 12 in court but didnt know the judge would only consider and not rule on the childs wishes. Obviously in certain circumstances it makes sense not to let the child live with another parent but we have a nice, healthy and stable home. I appreciate the feedback....

    Comment by Anonymous (original poster) at 2:00 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • It's actually no true that 12 is the golden age that a child can decide where they want to live. In my experience it's what's in the best interests of the child. She may be having problems with Mom, and can do more at Dads.. You don't really know since you don't live in the home. Maybe it would be best if you all got together, without the child present, and discuss what would be best for her. That might give you and insight on what's going on in her Mothers home, as apposed to yours, and that might give you a clear idea of why she wants to live with her Father.

    Answer by MrsLeftlane at 2:01 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • Each state has its own age where a child can be heard in reference to preferred living arrangements. As others have said, it is no guarantee. Kids get upset with one parent & whine they want to live with the other till that one pisses them off, too. The courts don't care to waste time with the volley of kids' emotions. However, if there is substantial proof as to good reasoning for wanting/needing to be with one parent over the other, it will be taken into strong consideration.

    Answer by specialwingz at 2:02 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • Even with a good stable home they can say no. My home is much more stable then my ex husbands. He is a single guy on his own feeding my kid hot pockets for every meal lol. My sons lucky to come to my house with matching socks, and always has clothes too small that dont match on. He has also moved more then a couple times and has multiple gfs in and out of the home. Our home on the other hand is me, dh, our kids, I am a sahm, I cook every night, i am involved with the community etc. Our lawyer said because my son technically isnt being abused a judge could see it as being unstable to move him from one home to another where he has to change school just because my son doesnt WANT to be with his dad.

    Answer by gemgem at 2:03 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • @ 8Tinkerboo8 That is EXACTLY this situation I am dealing with. She doesnt want her and goes out of her way to avoid spending time with her and all that, but she feels threatened and lord forbid she have to give up the new house and car she just bought if she lost his child support payment every month...

    Comment by Anonymous (original poster) at 2:03 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

  • Colorado the golden age for the child to be heard is 12 but honestly - I don't think they should ask the children 90% of the time. I would never want my children to be in a position to choose between us and their dad. I would have never wanted to chose between my parents as a kid!

    Answer by tinadf7 at 2:14 PM on Apr. 15, 2011

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