WHEN CAN A CHILD DECIDE WHICH PARENT TO LIVE WITH
When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?
A child can never independently decide which parent they want to live with until they are 18. This may seem unfair, especially if the child is mature and independent, but that is the law. However, beginning at age 12, children can have a larger say in where they live – although a judge will be the person who ultimately makes a decision about, or approves of, parenting arrangements. Children also cannot decide to refuse visitation with one parent until they are 18 because, like parents, children are legally obligated to follow existing custody orders.
How Can I Try to Get Full Custody of My Child?
If you want to change an existing custody order, you will need to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, or SAPCR. This allows you to make a case in front of a judge that your child wants to live with you and that it would be in the child’s best interests to do so. You can ask a judge to speak privately with the child and get their opinion firsthand; if the child is over 12 years old, the judge is obligated to speak with them.
It is important to understand that the child’s testimony, your evidence, the other parent’s evidence, and everyone’s preferences are not predictive of a judge’s final decision. A judge will review the case and decide according to the arrangement that he or she feels is in a child’s best interests.