Can my children choose which parent to live with?

There are a lot of tough issues to consider when you and your spouse are going through a divorce. The care of your children is high on the priority list. Both you and your former partner are likely invested in keeping their best interests in mind.

One common question in custody cases is whether or not the children can have a say in who they live with. The ultimate answer is both yes and no; here is what you need to keep in mind as you prepare for your custody decision.

Child’s reasoning must be mature

The age of your children is typically the first determination that a judge may examine. Though the state of Massachusetts has no set age requirement, the opinion of an older teen usually carries more weight. Someone who is younger may have a valid viewpoint if his or her reasoning is mature.

The judge wants to see that your children can express preferences based on their own personal needs, rather than the fear of hurting a parent’s feelings. Younger kids may have trouble differentiating between their best interests and the approval of their mom or dad.

Child’s preference is not the only factor

If the judge deems your children’s opinions valid enough to consider, understand that it will not be the only factor. Though your son or daughter may have a strong preference to remain with you, there are other aspects to evaluate. These may include proximity to the following needs:

  • Current school
  • Special health care
  • Family and friends
  • Extracurricular activities

The judge will also look at the history of the parent’s relationship with the children. A long period of absence or the presence of drug use or other criminal activity will certainly come into play.

While your children’s opinion certainly matters, the court wants to make the best decision for them. If there is any reason to suspect that the custody arrangement may hurt them in the long run, a judge will likely go against the young person’s preference.

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