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Can A Child Choose Which Parent They Will Live With?

There is a lot of misinformation about child custody disputes. Many clients are confused about when a child can choose to live with a parent.  In all child custody disputes, the Court considers many factors, including the child’s preference on which parent should be awarded custody.

One of those factors MAY be the child’s preference. However, the Court will weigh the child’s preference based on not only the child’s age, but the maturity of the child. As we all know, some children who are 13 years old are more mature than a child who is 15 years old.

The general rule is that the older a child is, the more influence a child’s preference will have on where they live. A child between the age of 13 and 16, will also have their preference seriously considered. Certainly, most Courts will state that once a child turns 16 years of age, their preference will be strongly considered. However, this is not an absolute rule, and a Court can decide that even a 16- or 17-year old’s preference is not to be followed or considered.

There is one absolute, once a child turns 18 years of age, they have the absolute right to decide where they want to live. This is because for legal custody purposes, once a child turns 18 years of age, they are considered an adult.  In contrast, in New York, a parent is obligated to pay child support until a child is 21 years old.  So, although where the child decides to live is up to the child, that decision will have a great effect on who pays child support.

If a child is younger than 13 years of age, most Courts will give little weight to that child’s preference.  However, even for younger children, there is still no absolutes.

What one Judge once said is true of all child custody cases: “There are no rules when it comes to child custody.”

Child custody and visitation can be a very difficult road to navigate. David Badanes, Esq. and the Badanes Law Office, P.C., have represented numerous clients and helped them navigate child custody issue in their divorce or in their family court action. If you are seeking a divorce or custody, contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office, P.C.  David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office’s phone number is 631-239-1702, email at david@dbnylaw.com or visit our web site: www.dbnylaw.com.  The Badanes Law Office has offices in Northport and Uniondale.

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David Badanes