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Can a child choose which parent to live with after a divorce?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2023 | Family Law |

Parents may understandably get into disagreements about where their child should live after a divorce takes place. They may both say that they want sole parenting time. They may even threaten to seek that type of legal arrangement if the other person doesn’t cooperate with them during the divorce process.

But the reality is the courts generally prefer to order a division of time between both parents, and that is becoming more common all the time. The courts typically want a child to stay involved with each parent moving forward, as long as both parents are fit caretakers. Part of this process may include asking the child what they would prefer and where they would like to live, if the child in question is older.

If the court does this, should parents be concerned that the child would choose to live with the other person? Could your child theoretically tell the court that they only want to live with your ex, meaning you’ll get no parenting time at all?

The child’s opinion is just one factor

It is possible for children to express their opinions and desires to the court, and a child certainly may say that they would rather live with one parent over the other. Children sometimes have a closer bond with one parent and would rather spend more time with them. But that doesn’t mean the court has to go along with an arrangement that a child has suggested. Usually, the court looks at a lot of different factors, such as potential evidence of abuse, financial situations, where the child goes to school, who is the primary caregiver, how old the child is, if the parents have any physical or cognitive limitations, if there are cultural considerations, etc.

When making a decision, the court is going to weigh all of these factors. The child’s expressed desires are one factor that will fit into this equation, but that doesn’t mean the court has to do what the child has asked. Again, without a very clear reason to do so – like abuse – courts tend to focus on sharing parenting time, rather than assigning it to only one parent or the other.