Children And Divorce: When Children Can Choose Who To Live With
Children have a rough time of it when parents split. They may want to stay with one parent, but are told that they have to live with both parents at separate houses and at different times. They may not want to live with either parent because of things that happened in the home, but the courts will still enforce parental custody and/or visitation. In most cases, children do not have a choice or a say in who they will live with. The rest of those cases, they do have a say. So, when can a child speak for themselves and request a living arrangement he/she prefers? The following info is just a guide; it will vary from state to state.
The Eighteen-Year-Old with a Year of High School Left
This is one of those situations where an eighteen-year-old is officially considered a legal adult, but still has a year or more of high school left before graduation. At this point, the "child" can make his/her own decisions about which parent he/she wants to live with for the remainder of the school year, even if the other parent objects. The only exception to this rule is if the legally adult-child is cognitively disabled and unable to speak or make his/her own decisions in a way that shows that he/she is cognizant of choices and actions. Then you might have a lot of ongoing issues with your ex-spouse and have to go through family court with your divorce attorney's help to prevent such a thing from happening.
Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen
In some states, minors as young as fourteen are allowed to speak for themselves in divorce court and family court proceedings. In other states, fifteen or sixteen is the age allowed and required. Other states may not allow any minor who is not at least seventeen at the time of the divorce or later to have a say in which parent he/she lives with. You will have to check with your divorce lawyer to see what your own state says.
All Children Thirteen and Below
In all states children aged thirteen and below are represented by a guardian ad litem that they do not choose to represent them. You do not choose this lawyer, either, nor does your ex. The guardian ad litem is always chosen by the courts. Ergo, all of your minor children under the age of thirteen have zero say in which parent they can live with and stay with full time.
For more information, reach out to law firms like Bray & Johnson Law Firm.