Written by Jonathan Breeden
When you and your spouse decide to get divorced, one of the hardest topics that needs to be addressed is child custody. If your child is an infant, then there is no discussion as to whether their opinion matters. You two will either decide on a parenting plan yourselves, or a judge will decide what is in the baby or toddler’s best interests.
However, the older your child is during a custody dispute, the more likely a judge is to take their opinion into consideration. If you are divorcing and have a teenager or pre-teen who has thoughts on where they want to live, you may be asking yourself, “can my child decide which parent they want to live with?”
Give a North Carolina family attorney at Breeden Law Office a call at (919) 661-4970. Attorney Jonathan Breeden will explain how a judge determines custody, and the weight your son or daughter’s opinion may carry.
There are two ways in which your son or daughter can decide where to live after a divorce. The first option is you and their other parent following their lead. If you have teenagers, this may be a family decision. You and your spouse may talk with your children about the future and what is best for them. You can then both decide to respect your child’s wishes. The second way your child can help decide which parent to live with is if a judge takes their opinion into consideration during a custody dispute.
When you and your spouse ask the court to decide the best child custody arrangement, a judge is going to look at what living situation is in the best interests of your child. Whatever decision the judge makes, be it sole or joint custody, they will do so because it is the parenting arrangement that is most likely to promote the child’s best interests and welfare.
When determining a child’s best interests, a judge may listen to and consider your child’s opinion. However, whether the judge gives it any weight depends on a number of factors. In some situations, a judge may not give your child’s desires to live with you or their other parent much thought due to the child’s young age or immaturity. However, a judge may also believe an adolescent is of the age and maturity to provide a thought-out opinion on where it is best for them to live.
There is no magic age at which your child has the right to decide where to live or when a judge will give their opinion considerable weight. Before the age of 10, your son or daughter may be old enough to understand you and the other parent will live separately. However, they probably do not understand enough about the situation or their needs to have an opinion on where they should live. As they get older, your son or daughter may form an opinion, though it may not be objective.
Young teens may want to live with the parent that is less strict or more fun. Once your child is in high school, though, they may have a stronger opinion and be able to better decide and articulate what is best for them.
If you and your spouse are divorcing and have children together, you will have to determine where they are going to live. You two may work out a parenting plan together, taking your kids’ obvious or articulated desires into consideration. You and your spouse may choose to go through mediation, knowing you disagree but not to the point of needing court intervention. However, if you and your spouse deeply disagree on what is best for your children, then it is time to ask a judge to make a decision.
Whether you believe court intervention is necessary or not, contact experienced child custody attorney Jonathan Breeden of Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 to learn more about your parental rights and options.