Children of divorce often have their own opinions about who they want to live with. Do the courts take children’s wishes into consideration when determining custody? At what age can children express their wishes to the court? Kevin Zlock, a Bucks County child custody lawyer, answers these questions below.
Question: At what age is my child’s wish of who she wants to live with taken into consideration by the court? Does she have a say in who she wants to live with?
Answer: Kids shouldn't be part of the process. They shouldn't be in front of a custody evaluator. They certainly should not be in court. If they are, that’s a day they will probably never forget. We don’t want the kids in court. We don’t want them in front of an evaluator.
Oftentimes, they have to go to an evaluation. The children, as they get older, they don’t have say, they don’t get to choose. But what they want matters more the older they get, and what they want and why they want it matters as well.
Let’s say you have a 14 year who says, “I want to live with one parent because they let me stay up til midnight every night on school nights.” Well, that’s what I wanted to do when I was 14, but that might not be the right reason to have primary custody in one parent.
So what they want and how old they are matters by degrees. The older they get, the more of what they want, the judge will consider.
Of course, when they are 16 1/2, 17 years old, the judge will give a lot of consideration to it.
But at what age do they actually pick what they want? It’s 18 years old, when they are no longer children.