Do child custody laws allow for a teenager to change custody agreements?
My ex-wife has had custody of our 16-year-old daughter for many years. Recently, my daughter has said she wants to come live with me partially because my ex-wife and her husband constantly say negative things about me.
To modify custody based on a 16-year-old's wishes, is it as simple as going to court and my daughter saying she would prefer to live with me, or do I have to prove that the environment in my house is better for her than having her mind poisoned against me in her mother's house?
This answer only includes general divorce help for men since I am only licensed to practice in Oklahoma and am thus unable to provide any legal advice on divorce on the divorce laws in other states.
The short answer to your question is yes. Given the age of your child (over the age of 12), changing child custody can be as simple as filing what is called a Motion to Modify Custody, Visitation and Child Support based on your daughter's desire to live with you and the fact that your ex and her husband routinely say negative things about you to the minor child in the attempt to poison the child's mind against you.
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Of course, while it can be that simple, there are other factors that the court must consider. The court is going to look at a plethora of factors to determine whether to grant the change of custody or not.
It is what we call the totality of the circumstances test. After looking at all the factors, the court will weigh the evidence and make a decision.
While I cannot predict what that decision will be, if your 16-year-old daughter is adamant that she wants to move and she can articulate valid reasons for why she wants to move, I believe there is a good chance the court will switch custody.
Additionally, if your daughter is willing to testify that her mother routinely says negative things about you that will only make your chances better that the court will modify custody.
As I am sure you know, a valid reason for your daughter wanting to come live with you is not and cannot be based on bribes, such as "Dad promised me a new car since I'm 16, but Mom said I have to work for one."
Please understand that my opinions are based upon the limited facts that you provided to me. For a more in depth discussion of fathers rights and legal advice on divorce, I urge you to contact a family law attorney