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A common question I hear from clients dealing with divorce and parenting time issues is: How old does a child have to be to decide whether to live with mom or dad in a divorce case?

While children don’t make the final decisions, parents and the judge do. However, a child may be able to express their preference regarding living arrangements. A judge may speak with a child to understand the situations at both homes, including the child’s relationship with each parent and any other person in the home, such as a new boyfriend or girlfriend. If there are allegations about the conditions in the home, the judge will inquire about those as well.

This interview with the child is conducted privately in the judge’s chambers, not in open court and not in front of the parents. The judges I have seen conduct these interviews usually have another person present, such as a judicial assistant.

There is no specific age at which a child is allowed to speak to the judge. The statute states that the court can consider the reasonable preference of a child who is of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience. In real-world terms, this usually means teenagers.

If you are dealing with parenting time issues and want to understand more about your child’s input in custody decisions, please contact my office to set up a consultation.