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Does a 15 year old have the say whether or not he wants to go back to custodial parent after visiting with non-custodial parent?

San Diego, CA |

15 yr old lives with custodial parent (CP) almost 100% since 08/2012. No issues raised until child visited non-custodial parent (NC) and decided they wanted to live & and go to school where NC lives (another county). 1 objection to is NC travels for work & will be leaving child with relative for the 3+ weeks they travel; this is a frequent occurrence and part of NC's job. Is this in the best interest of the child? NC has promised child car at 16, bigger bedroom, etc... School starts this week & NC is "respecting child's wishes" by not allowing CP to pick up child. This is going for mediation, which is scheduled for a time when NC is traveling for work (not known until after date was set). What recourse does CP have? Child is now claiming to be uncomfortable with CP - never an issue before.

Child claims to be afraid CP will keep child in the school and not allow them to return to be enrolled in NC district. Step parents are involved on both sides and child states no longer comfortable around CP stepparent (never an issue before). Original custody agreement is 50/50 week on week off.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

Typically, the older the child is, the more weight the court will give the child's testimony. However, what the child wants is still only a part of the equation. The court must made decisions which reflect the best interests of the child, regardless of what the child thinks is best. Child custody and visitation is ultimately an adult decision.

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on. Each state has different laws, and each situation is fact specific. Without an in depth consultation and analysis of all relevant facts and evidence, it is impossible to fully evaluate a legal problem. This answer is not intended to, and does not, create an attorney-client relationship.


A 15 year old will get a voice, but cannot join the Circus just because it seems like a cool idea. The totality of the situation, including abuse/neglect/friends/relatives/supervision and all the other parent considerations will be weighed against the child's desire.

I represent Employers, but I can recommend Worker Attorneys in So Cal if you ask.


Since your child is over the age of 14, the child gets more of a preference of where he/she wants to go. However, the court will look to the best interest of the child when dealing with a modification request for order. Extremely stubborn and defiant children can really cause problems with custody orders. The court may continue the mediation date and the court date, especially if the travel schedule was not known until after the date was set.
You really need to consult with a child custody attorney.

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A child of that age is given a lot of power to decide where they wish to live. Hopefully mediation will be able to determine what is going in in this case but is unlikely that the mediation through e court system have the time to make the collateral contacts to all of the parties that seem to be involved in this situation to get to the bottom of everything You may be better served by getting a full custody evaluation of all involved where there is more time given to address what is going on. Even with more time, if the determination is to leave custody as is, it may be impossible to force a teenage to live where they choose not to live.

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