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But They Want to Live with Me . .

How old does a child have to be before they can pick the parent they want to live with? It depends. Many parents think that once a child turns 14, they can decide where they want to live. Not exactly. A 14 year old has the right to select the parent they want to live with, but …… and it is an important “but” the child’s choice is “presumptive” meaning its dependent upon another dynamic. That “dynamic ” is whether the Court thinks that the child’s choice is in the child’s ”best interest”. If the Court does not think child’s selection is in the best interest of that child, the Court can decide to go against the child’s wishes. There are a number of factors that the court must evaluate in determining what is in the child’s best interest.  So if your child comes to you and says they want to change where they live, you want to contact a family law attorney immediately. What a child wants is no longer the only thing to consider when determining where that child will live.

What are the Factors ?
So the Court has the discretion to decide where your child will live. So what are the factors? The Court is bound by specific statutory factors in determining a child’s interest. The factors range from a child’s extracurricular activities to domestic violence in the home to sexual abuse to the ability of the parent to parent. If your child wants to change homes it is critical that you consult with a family law attorney prior to making any promises to your child. The rules for changing residences have multiple considerations and the 14 year old election has ramification on the analysis the Court builds in making its final decision. Telling a child that they can move without fully understanding the court’s consideration process could place you in the position of having to reverse your commitment to your child. Parenting a 14 year old is difficult enough…. Having to tell them that they cannot do what you said they could is so much harder. .

No Selection Until 14?

Not exactly. At age 11, the wishes of the child can be considered. The educational needs of the child are very important and yet, the needs of the child are not controlling. The court has wide discretion but still is required to analyze the issue pursuant to what is in the best interest of the child. An interesting point is that the statute allows a court to temporarily allow the child to live with the parent the child has selected, but for not more than six months. Changing a child’s residence is of major importance to you, your child and the Court. Make sure that you understand all of the ramifications of changing the residence of your 11 year old prior to making any change. The change of residence for an 11-14 year old child are hard for an adult to appreciate, and even harder for an 11 year to comprehend.

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