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Does my child have a right to choose who he or she lives with?

It is normal and healthy to give children more responsibility and opportunities to make decisions about their lives as they grow older. This is true for many things, from deciding what types of subjects they would like to study at school, to which friends they would prefer to hang out with, the clothes they would like to wear and the sports that they want to play.

When a child reaches the age of 12 or 13, many parents believe that this extension of decision-making will also be true for the child when it comes to deciding which parent that he or she would like to live with, overriding the decisions that the courts previously made.

Choosing as a minor

You might find it surprising that legally, a minor is not allowed to choose which parent he or she lives with and should follow the recommendations of the courts. The age that is considered that of a minor will vary between jurisdictions.

Giving weight to the child's preferences

The one thing that does gradually change with age, however, is the court's propensity to take the child's preferences seriously and give them more weight in the child custody decision. The opinion of a 5-year-old is going to be taken much less seriously than the opinion of a 14-year-old, for example.

The reason that minors cannot choose who they live with is largely due to the problems that can arise from it. Many parents might make the child feel guilty or try to bribe the child to choose their home.

Child custody battles are complex, and a great deal of research is required to understand your rights in every situation. Make sure to know your rights so that you can get the custody agreement that you deserve.

Source: Good Therapy, "Can My Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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