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Child is 13 years old.Mother has custody.child wants to live with father.

Stafford, VA |

Son is 13 living with mother.Wants to live with father.If chid visits and does not return home.Could father get in trouble.

Attorney Answers 3


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

The law regarding a child's 'right'* to choose is a matter for each 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. There are even cases when children of age 9 are allowed to testify.

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 child 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 out-of-state lawyer for educational purposes only. There is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding.

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The short answer is yes, the father could get in trouble.

There is most likely an order of custody and visitation. Court orders can only be changed by new court orders. If the father kept the child contrary to the terms of the order, that would be a violation.

Keep in mind that the court in father's state can and will enforce the custody order, even if from another state. There are some preliminary requirements, but it happens eventually.

Also, there may be criminal concerns. Va. Code 18.2-49.1 addresses violations of court orders regarding custody and visitation.

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If there is an existing court order it must be followed until it is changed by a court. A petition for custody needs to filed. The reasonable preference of the child is one of the statutory factors that a judge must consider in making a custody decision.

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