Parents often ask me how old a child has to be to legally decide who they want to live with. The short answer is ‘probably never’. The Court is bound by law to consider the best interest of the child when awarding custody, which includes considering the following relevant factors:
- The wishes of the parents.
- The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing, meaningful relationship with the child and the willingness of the parents to provide it.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and others who significantly affect their best interest.
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent.
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of the individuals involved.
- The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child.
- The wishes of the child.
Research done when children of divorce become adults indicates that those who were asked who they wanted to live with did not want to choose between parents, and wished they had not been asked to do so.
Children’s brains are not fully developed until their 20’s. The last area to develop is their ability to understand the future consequences of current choices. Children are not equipped to make choices that are in their best long-term interest.
-Carol Love, LMFT, KITM Therapist and Treatment Team Supervisor