The Child’s Preference

young boy with a hoodieI am often asked, "how old do my kids have to be before they can choose with which parent they will live?"  The answer is 18.  When kids are 18, they can live where they want (obviously, they're adults at that point).  Until then, the parents get to choose. And when parents divorce and can't agree on where the child will live? The judge gets to choose.

In Tennessee, if the child is at least 12 years old, the judge will listen to the child about where he or she would prefer to live, but it's only one factor that the judge will consider when making her decision (all the factors are listed in the statute T.C.A. 36-6-404). The weight given to the child's preference depends on the child's age, level of maturity, how the other factors shake out, and more.  If the child is under 12 years old, the Judge doesn't have to consider what the child wants at all.

Talk to us about what effect your child's preference has, if any, on your custody determination.  And if your child wants to live with the other parent-- don't freak out.  Remember, as kids get older, their needs change and parenting must change too.

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