How old does a child have to be to decide who he wants to live with in a divorce?

Asked over 5 years ago - New Castle, PA

My sons are 10 and 15-1/2. They want to live with me ( the father) but courts won't let them be heard. My ex wife is using the system saying that they are depressed and need counseing and the judge said if they can't get along with both parents they will be put in foster care. They want to live with me and are very happy when they are with me and miserable with their mother. But all the courts want to do is send them to session after session for counseling. All she wants is the child support, and the courts are letting her do it. I can't believe the judge wouldn't hear them and say that they will go to foster care before they would let them go to me, their father, who wants them and they want me. Help ,please. What can I do if I think the judges are being unfair to the children

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Answered . I think the Judge's statement is directed at you and your ex. When parents can't get along, or dispute what is best for the children, the courts are a poor resource to resolve the problems. Unless there is a danger to the children, it is unlikely that the court will alter the custody arranement.

    Children typically want to live where they think it will be easier on them. Right now, that may seem like its with you. But, you would be expected to provide an evironment that doesn't jeopardize their grades or put at risk or leave them unsupervised, just like the mother. My suggestion is to talk with your children, let them know that you are always available, but at this time they need to come to terms with their living arrangements.

    You should talk with you ex to try to arrange more time with the boys but not in an attempt to stop paying support. You need to understand that your complaints are heard a million times in court by parents using their children against each other, and allegations about the motivations of child support is used against both parents.

    Understand that the children's wishes are not that important to the court, the court is concerned with what is in their best interests. A 10 year old is too young to decide and the 15 1/2 year old is more likely to manipulate the system. That is why the court won't let them be heard.

    If the home environment is dangerous then request home evaluations be conducted. I assume that such have already occurred and there was not any recommendation that the children be removed from custody with their mother.

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