When Can Kids Decide Which Parent To Live With?

Divorce has the potential to upend both spouses’ lives for a while. There is a significant financial toll to consider because neither household will have as much total income. However, there is also the toll to relationships to consider. 

Spouses with children together need to determine where the kids will live. Most of the time, parents split custody. However, there are circumstances where a child will only live with one parent. Many spouses worry a child will decide to live with one parent and the other will never see him or her again. This is rare because the courts do not automatically give children the option to decide where to live. 

Kids can state a preference

During a divorce trial, the judge may allow children to take the stand to say which parent they want to live with. A judge will never force children to get on the stand, and if necessary, the judge will speak with the kids in private first. Most courts in Florida consider a child’s wishes as soon as he or she turns 12. This does not mean the child will go wherever he or she wants at this age. The judge merely considers it. 

The judge decides what is in the child’s best interest

The reason child custody becomes heavily scrutinized during trials is that the judge has to determine what will be best for the child in the long run. For most kids, this will involve spending time with both parents. A 13-year old child may only want to live with his mother, but there could be a litany of factors affecting that decision. Perhaps the child knows the mother is more lenient and will allow him to get away with more. In this instance, the judge would likely grant joint custody. Over time, the parents can alter this agreement if circumstances change.