Can your child choose to live with your ex?

On Behalf of | May 19, 2023 | Child Custody

You’re getting divorced, and you’re worried that you’re not going to get custody of your child. It isn’t because you don’t want this responsibility. And there’s no evidence of abuse, criminal activity or anything else that would prohibit you from having custody. It’s simply that you think your child wants to live with your ex.

Maybe the child has already made this known to you. When you get to court and the court decides how to divide custody, you are afraid that your child is going to request to live with your ex and that the court will grant that request. Naturally, this makes you concerned that you won’t see your child again, or at least not as frequently as you would like. Can your child make this decision?

Older children can have their preferences considered

The good news for you is that your child cannot unilaterally make this decision. They can’t decide that they’re not going to live with you and they’re going to live with your ex. The court isn’t simply going to ask them for their opinion and then agree to it.

Instead, the court will evaluate various things that it feels are in the child’s best interests. These will include issues like evidence of abuse, as noted above. But they can also include things like proximity to other family members, the safety of a living situation, the level of financial stability, if the child has any special needs, the mental and physical health of the parents, etc. The court wants to look at the full picture to decide where it would be best for the child to spend their time.

Children who are deemed old enough – often around 12 or 13 years old – can tell the court if they have a specific parent they would like to live with. The court will consider that along with the other factors noted above and each parent’s broad right to be involved in their child’s upbringing. At the end of the day, the court is still going to rule in favor of the child’s best interests, even if those do not necessarily line up with the child’s own desires. In most scenarios, the courts view a shared custody arrangement as preferable for kids.

Moving forward

Getting divorced can be complicated and stressful. Seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible will help to better ensure that you can safeguard your rights and your child’s best interests as well.