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Divorce Advice for Men | Fathers Rights Divorce | Child Custody

Providing men with essential divorce advice, fathers rights divorce information and child custody articles. Dads Divorce is a community for men facing divorce or fathers rights issues and run by Cordell and Cordell. Cordell & Cordell is a family law firm with a focus on men's divorce, child custody and fathers rights divorce.
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age of child choose custodyBy Erica Christian

Divorce Attorney, Cordell & Cordell

Divorce can be a nasty process. When child custody is an issue, divorce is even more contentious. Some parents want to leave the custody battle up to the child, thus the inevitable question:

How old does a child have to be to decide where and with which parent they want to live?

There may be a specific statute in your state that provides for an age when a child may determine or provide input as to the child custody decision. When there is a custody dispute in my state (Wisconsin), the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem regardless of the age of the minor child, to determine the best interests of the child. 

Generally, a child can testify when they are of sufficient maturity to understand and take the oath to testify truthfully. However, the child's wishes are usually only one factor the court will use to determine the best interest of the child. (Read more about the best interest of the child standard.) In some states, the judge must determine whether permitting the child to state a preference is even in the child’s best interests.

Usually by 12 years old a child can testify. As the child gets older, his or her wishes carry more weight. By 15 or 16 if the child is of general maturity and has logical reasons for changing the custody, the court will often abide by the child's wishes.  The key is that the child has to have a logical reason for changing the present support and placement. 

Child custody statutes routinely require the fact-finder to consider the child’s preferences. Despite their speculative nature, preferences are important to the case – and to parents’ rights.

Therefore, state rules for preference testimony strike a balance between protecting children from the pain of having to choose and ensuring their preference testimony is reliable, or as reliable as can be. 

You should contact an attorney licensed in your state to inquire as to whether a statute defines when a child can decide and the standard the courts apply in determining custody and placement. 

Cordell & Cordell has men's divorce lawyers located nationwide.


erica christianErica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

Ms. Christian received her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as her Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin, graduating with academic distinction.

Comments (9)Add Comment
written by Paris, July 03, 2012
Hi my name is Paris and my mom and dad got a divorce my mom got me. but i want to live with my dad. i lived in Washington but my mom brought me California and i want to go back to Washington to live with my dad because i know he could take way better care of me and all my friends are down there. My mom lives with her own mom!!! and my dad on the other hand has lots of money. And im only 12 years old
written by Secret, November 25, 2012
I'm 16. My dad and mom have been divorced since I was 4 & at that time my dad got custody of me up until I was 14. Me and my dad start butting heads all because I was becoming a teenager so I ran to my mom & she took it back to court. They have since then had joint custody of me, my mom being primary custodian. My dad was only granted standard visitation. However, lately I'm realizing that I made a hug mistake by doing that. The past few weeks I've mostly been staying at my dads & my mom is trying to make me come home. I don't want too and I think I've made myself clear on that. Can she make me? Do I need to contact my guardian a litem?
written by Dennis, February 03, 2013
Ok im 15 and my mom has primary custodian of me, but recently me and my mom have been arguing daily. And i think if there is anyway i can save my relationship with her i will have to move to my dad's and give him primary custodian and she would have visitation instead. My vocab might be off so what i mean is i mainly live with my mom but i still see my dad over breaks and one weekened a month sometimes more, all i want to do is just flip it where i mainly live with my dad but still visit my mom over breaks and weekeneds. Do i have to testify in court or do my parents just have to do it.
Aunt or Mom
written by lizzy, February 15, 2013
I'm 14 Iive with my grandma for right now. Me and my mom are yelling at each other that I need to ether live with her or with my grandma my mom is divorced. She has been married 4 times once with my real dad and the second and fourth time with my step dad Mike and third time with this guy named buddy. I want to live with my Aunt Brenda because she can spend time with me and if I'm with my mom all she does is yell at me. I've already am self harming myself and the reason is because im getting bullied and she is forcing me to live with her what should I do.
written by What can I do?, April 08, 2013
I'm 16 years old soo to be 17 and my parents are divorce since I'm 1 year old my mom got my full custody but I don't like her anymore She is always screaming at me she treats me like a maid and I just don't want to be here she doesent even love me or demostrates care for me! I feel like I'm trash to her and she makes me feel like it to I want to go live with my dad but we live in to different states!
What can I do can I go with him or do I have to stay with my mom until I'm 18?
Living with Mom
written by Sas., May 26, 2013
See, I want to go live with my mom, she doesnt have a job, she is living in an apartment, but I really think it'd be better if I did. My dad has smoking, drinking and anger issues. I love my dad, but I don't want to live with him anymore, I always smell like smoke when I leave the house. I can't get rid of the smell, and he is never going to stop, he has been doing it since he was 14. I don't know what to do, because my dad pays for a lot of my things, he tries to be a good parent, but he has a lot of problems. He refuses to smoke outside. I know he will be really sad if I leave. I dont want to hurt his feelings, I know that if I left to go live with my mom, I wouldn't be able to do dance. I just am wondering if I did go live with my mom, if she would get some sort of child support.
I dont know what to do. I am only 12. I don't want my dad messed up even more than he already is.
Home >> Articles >> Choosing Mom or Dad: Can A Child Choose Where To Live? Choosing Mom or Dad: Can A Child Choose Where To Live?
written by Trinity, July 14, 2013
Im 12 aaaaand, my mom one time called me an a** ive decided that i want my dad to have full custody over me :D Soooooo can i do that Now or do i have to wait?
written by L, February 06, 2014
My parents are getting a divorce. They are in the middle of it right now. I want to live with my mom. So do my sisters and my brother. We thought things were gonna be ok but that my dad at the last minute decided he wanted full custody. My mom says shes not going to let that happen. I love my dad. We all do. But, we need our mother. My dad works all the time so it would be too stressful and hard on us and him if he got full custody. We need to live with my mom. We all know that it would be so much better and easier. But my dad won't listen. I'm 13....I love both of my parents equally but it would just be best for everyone if we lived with our mom. She is willing to let us see my dad whenever we want. And let him get the most out of the whole $ issue. I want to know if since I'm 13...if I can choose who I get to live with. Can I? I'm willing to do whatever possible to make sure that way stay we or at least me...stay will my mom.
written by Fed Up. , April 10, 2014
Well.. most of your reasonings to live with the opposite parent are not a good reason. The courts would more than likely throw the case out or not even listen to it just because you're fighting with your mother or father. As long as your parent is providing food, clothes, education, and a roof over your head their job is done! you have to come up with a logical reason why you would like to move in with your mom or dad.. "Just because we fight a lot." is NOT a reason! Ex. I am almost 16, my mother has kicked me out of the house in the freezing cold and I am failing my studies in school because she simply doesn't care enough, she has almost broken my ribs and hand before and is not working, therefore we have "no money" other then child support from my father thank god! but reading these it sounds like petty reasons and the court isn't just going to say "Ok, you can go live with them" it takes awhile and if your parents don't just come to an agreement you have to go through curt, write a letter, and if you DO get granted the privilege to live with that parent you have to move, find a new school, doctor, dentist, move all of your stuff or in most cases (get new stuff). Think about it before.. and 12,13,14 is too young to be going through that.

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