What Age Can a Child Make Custody Decisions? 

When it comes to custody decisions, children’s wishes are sometimes irrelevant. A family court judge must look at other factors in determining a child’s best interests. For example, the decision to give a child a parent with whom they want to live can be contentious. It can also be difficult to know what age a child should be considered mature enough to decide for themselves. Ultimately, a parent should have a strong enough bond with their child to determine what is best for them. 

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While most states do not have a specific age for a child to be considered mature, they do make an effort to take into account the preferences of a child. In addition to making a judgement about a child’s maturity level, the judge will also consider the child’s best interests. These are typically determined based on the child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. If a child’s best interests are not met, the court may rule against a custody arrangement that the child wants. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the judge can make a decision even when the child is not present in the room. 

In New York, a court can consider the age of a child in determining the best arrangement for custody. The most common age for a child to be considered mature enough to make a rational decision about the custodial parent is 14 years old. This age is not required, but it is the most common. 

In most states, the legal minimum for a child’s maturity is 12 or 14. If a child is older than this, the judge will still weigh in. In Georgia, a child can turn in a written affidavit that states his or her preferences. In Pennsylvania, a child’s preference must be well-reasoned. A judge can still weigh in on the matter, but parents can do their own due diligence to determine whether their child’s opinion is legitimate. 

A large number of states presume that children are mature enough to determine what is best for them. In fact, a majority of these states require judges to consider a child’s choice in order to make a good judgment about custody. 

However, the weight of a child’s preference varies by age. The more mature a child is, the more weight it will receive. In California, a child’s choice is presumed to be the right of the child if it is based on sound, mature reasons. In Virginia, a child’s preference is given more heft when it is based on an understanding of the situation. Similarly, Utah gives extra weight to the opinions of children aged fourteen to eighteen. In Pennsylvania, a parent’s preference is only as important as the child’s, but the parental decision can be influenced by other factors. 

In some jurisdictions, such as South Carolina, a judge has given weight to a child’s preference. For example, in Wheeler v. Mazur, a judge took into consideration the wishes of a 14-year-old. Although the court did not rule that the preference was the correct choice, the court found that it was one of the better ones.