Under WA state child custody laws at what age can a minor legally decide where and who they want to live

At what age can a minor legally say where they want to live? She's being verbally abused in her home & has started cutting herself. Her mother knows but says 'She's going to counsling' and leaves it at that. My niece is afraid to talk to the counsler since he tells her mother everything.

Kennewick, WA -

Attorney Answers (2)

Jon Michael Zimmerman

Jon Michael Zimmerman

Family Law Attorney - Seattle, WA
Answered

In Washington, a minor 16 years of age or older can petition the court for emancipation, but it's a pretty high standard for the court to grant emancipation. Also, emancipation is often about independence of the minor, not about a minor being adopted or cared for by a nonparent.

Alan James Brinkmeier

Alan James Brinkmeier

Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney - Chicago, IL
Answered

The court will decide what is in the best interest of the child

There is no magic age when children get to decide visitation. 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. 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 WI 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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