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Can a 16 year old in massachusetts decide where he/she goes to school?

Westminster, MA |

my parents are divorced with joint custody, and my mother disaproves of my significant other and is trying to remove me from the school we go to. my father approves of my partner and is willing to allow me to remain in school with my partner. my mother has primary custody, but im living with my father currently.

Attorney Answers 4


I am assume for the purposes of answering this question that reference to your "partner" is reference to a "platonic" relationship with no statutory implications that I could be viewed as otherwise endorsing by answering this question. As a sixteen year old, you can nominate your own guardian. If you have been living with your father, notwithstanding the last court order which has you living with your mother, it might also be a good idea for your Dad to file a complaint for modification to have the court recognize what your preference is and for the court orders regarding custody to reflect reality - that along would clear this up. Good Luck.

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Your father should file a modification based on your move and your preference. If your mother objects, your father can request that you be interviewed by Family Service, so that your views are heard by the court. I agree with Atty. Lee's caution, however. If the "significant other" is over 18 and your relationship is other than platonic, he will get into trouble and the court may very well not grant a change of custody depsite your wishes if this is the sole reason for your move. You ultimately can vote with your feet, but be careful opening up a can of worms.

To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.

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Not a simple answer, but short answer is no.

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As you might be able to see from the other attorneys' answers, while you may have a say in where you go to school, since you are a minor, the only mechanism for your preferences being heard are through your parents negotiating with each other or in a court action that one of your parents brings to resolve the dispute between them about where you should go to school.

Usually, "joint custody" means that the parent with primary physical custody has the authority to make day-to-day decisions concerning the child when the child is with that parent but has to involve the other parent in major decisions concerning the child's health, education and welfare.

I can't tell from your question whether you are currently living with your father because it is his parenting time under their separation agreement or if you or your parents decided that you should be with him for a time even though it is not where the parenting plan says you should be at the moment. If your parents have agreed to let you live with your father for a time aside from whatever their divorce judgment says and your father wants you to remain in your current school (for educational reasons), you should encourage your father to file a complaint for modification that the other answers suggested.

Outside of legal issues that you have to rely on your parents to address, you might do your position a good deal of good by treating it as an academic project. Prepare for a negotiation with your mother by setting out a calm and reasoned list of pros and cons for your continuing in your current school versus the school that your mother wants you to go to. If there are aspects of your relationship with your significant other that your mother doesn't know about that you can present in a way that might convince her that the relationship is good for you, include those in your chart or paper.

The more you can help your mother see the issues as being about your best interests and education and not just about wanting to be with your significant other, the better chance you have of appealing to her desire to do what she thinks is best for you.

NOTE: This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area who regularly practices in the subject matter which your question is about. You should develop an attorney client relationship with the lawyer of your choice so that your communications will be subject to the attorney client privilege and have the other benefits of a professional relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific matter as partially described in the question.

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