Child custody and the childs right to chose

What age does a child have to be to chose to live with Mom or Dad. My daughter wants to move in with me and has good reasons. We all still live in the same town and I (Dad) have significant visitation right now. Mom is the custodial parent.

Poulsbo, WA -

Attorney Answers (2)

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Elizabeth Rankin Powell

Family Law Attorney - Tacoma, WA
Answered

There is a persistent myth that children can make decisions regarding their residence, and it simply isn't true. If you tell a judge that custody should be reversed because that is what your daughter wants, be prepared for an unpleasant response from the Court, including the possibility of being ordered to pay the non-moving party's attorney fees.

Judges generally won't put children in the position of choosing one parent over the other. In fact, they will go to extreme lenghts to avoid this. In order to even start a modification, you (the moving party, NOT your child) have to demonstrate a significant change of circumstances in the life of the non-moving party that outweigh the likelihood of harm to your child that is presumed to happen with a placement change. Then, *IF* you meet the threshold burden (adequate cause) the Court will appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate and provide facts to the Court to assist the Court in making a decision regarding the child's residential placement.

If the mom has a recently developed meth habit, then yes, you might have a case. Otherwise, think really carefully before asking a court to change placement, and don't ask your daughter to choose you over her mom.

I know this isn't what you wanted to hear, but I hope it helps. Elizabeth Powell

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Alan James Brinkmeier

Alan James Brinkmeier

Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney - Chicago, IL
Answered

The best interest of the child is the standard. There is no magic age when children get to decide where to live.

The law regarding a child's 'right'* to choose which parent to live with is murky, and varies considerably by State and jurisdiction. The judge in most States, not the child, makes the decision based on the best interest of the child. Although not a standard by any means, many States have begun to give 'consideration' to a child's declaration of custodial preference when the child reaches the age of twelve or thirteen, sometimes fourteen. The judge is normally given almost unlimited latitude in whether or not she or he listens to a child and how much weight to give to the child's wishes. In short, there is no specific "age" but the younger the less likely for a judge to give the stated preference much weight.

Good luck to you.

NOTE: This answer is made available by the non-WA 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 WA professional attorney that practices in the subject practice discipline and with whom you have an atttorney client relationship along with all the privileges that relationship provides. 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 factual or legal circumstance described in the question.

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