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What age can a child choose what parent to live with in MN?

Winsted, MN |

We live in MN. My husband has 50% custody of his 2 daughters, ages 9 and 12. (they will be 10 & 13 pretty soon). They have court papers and have been to court several times in the last 3 years over all of this. The girls are with us half the time, and they go to school in our school district. Their mother decided, when she lost her home to foreclosure, to move out of our school district a year ago, and move a half hour away to a different school district, and thought that she was going to just move the kids to that school and not tell their father. As soon as the girls told us what she was trying to do, he took her to court and the judge ruled that no matter where the mother wants to live, the girls will keep going to the school where they have gone since kindergarten. So she has to drive them back and forth when it is her time to have them. She gets mad about that, but that is not our fault. Anyways, now the 12 year old has been constantly asking us lately if she can live with us full time and just see her mom every other weekend. She has told us that her mom has been yelling at her alot lately, calling her names (like "fat") and just fighting with her alot. Plus, she goes to school in our district, all of her friends are around our area, she is in volleyball and goes to practices, games and tournaments in our area, rides the bus to and from school from our house, when it is our time to have her. Her mom seems to live a pretty unstable life by the sounds of it. She seems to look at the kids as her way to make money for herself, and is very selfish when it comes to their well-being. The 12 year old text my husband (her dad) yesterday and just wrote, "starting on Wednesday, I want to live with you full time". My husband just told her that we will talk about what is happening this week and to try and calm down. This is a process we need to go through, we can't just make that decision in the blink of an eye. It is going to be a huge fight I'm sure with her mom. (everything seems to be a huge fight with her) We want our kids to be healthy and happy and just live the life a kid should. But their mom is going to see it as she will lose that child support. That is all she seems to worry about, because of course she does not work. My husband is a great dad and a hard worker. He is NOT a "dead beat dad". In this case, it is the other parent being the "dead beat mom". It is very frustrating. But every time they have gone to court in the last few years, the judge always rules in his favor because of the fact he is very honest and up front and is always prepared. But she just seems to walk into court, un-prepared and late and never has any "real" things to say, besides she wants more money. So the judge clearly can see the huge difference in the mom and dad and at least they recognize the type of person she is. But we need to know what is the correct way to go about this process if the 12 year old truly wants to live with us full-time? Is she old enough to make that decision in the State of MN? And where do we begin? I know she would have to talk to a judge I'm sure to state her reasoning behind all of this. Can you please give us some advice on what to do and how to handle this? The mom is always wanting to fight with us over everything, even when it something very very simple. So this needs to be handled in the right way. We knew this day would come, but now that it is here, we need to know how to do this right. Your advice would be MUCH appreciated! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.

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Best Answer

In teh State of Minnesota there is no particular age when a child may determine which parent they live with. Generally speaking, the older and more mature the child is, the greater weight to Court may give to the child's opinion. However, great care must be taken such that the parent is not viewed as having directly influenced the child's opinion in one way or another.

From the content of your post, it sounds as though your husband will need to file a motion to modify the parenting schedule (if not also to modify physical custody). Your best bet to get a better idea of what process you may be looking at (as well as timing and possible costs) is to get a copy of the court order that is currently in effect as to custody and parenting time and bring it in to have an in-person consultation with an attorney. Most attorneys (myself included) offer an free initial consultation.

Communications made as part of the question and answer forum on AVVO or other initial consultation(s) do not establish an attorney/client relationship. The content of this answer is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a source of solicitation or legal advice. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by viewing this answer or by sending electronic mail to the writer. Further, information contained herein is not to be construed as an invitation for an attorney-client relationship.


Under Minnesota law, a child never gets to determine where they will reside. After custody has been determined, any change in custody would require a showing that the child is endangered physically, emotionally or developmentally in the current custodial situation and that the benefit of the change in custody outweighs any harm. Children in their late teens may deemed endangered if they have strong feelings about living with one parent or another. The desires of younger children does not have such an impact.

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There is no age where a child can choose a parent to live with. It doesn't work that way in MN - the judge could, if they wish to, take the child's wishes into consideration, but most won't. Bottom line - the child goes where the court orders.

We can be reached at 507.334.0155. Our web address is: www. This answer is not to be considered a response to a specific legal issue in a specific jurisdiction - it is to be considered only a general response to a hypothetical scenario posed by the questioner. For specific legal advice, please consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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