What Age Does Child Have to Decide Custody? 

When it comes to child custody, one question that parents always ask is, “What age does a child have to be to decide custody?” Well, the answer to this question may be different from state to state. While the law does not dictate a specific age, most states do require children to be sufficiently mature to make the right choice. 

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In a child’s court case, a judge will consider a variety of factors to come to a decision. The most important one is the child’s preference. This can be a great way to determine whether the court should grant the child the ability to choose a parent to live with. It also shows the court that the parent has a strong bond with the child. If the child does not wish to see a particular parent, this can be an indication of the lack of a strong bond. However, the choice is not finalized until the court has given its OK. 

One of the best parts of a child’s custody case is that it can be a fun experience for the whole family. Children have the opportunity to speak with the court in private, a time when they might be more comfortable and ready to speak. They also have the chance to show their parents what they think of their living arrangements. A few judges have been known to even let the parents’ lawyers attend the in-chamber hearing. 

The judge is usually a well-informed authority figure. For instance, many judges are well aware that 15-year-old girls hate their mothers. Likewise, judges have a hunch that teens are adamant about not seeing their noncustodial parent. These factors have contributed to the fact that teenagers have more weight with the court than their younger counterparts. 

The judge is expected to be able to tell the difference between the child’s wishes and a plethora of other evidence. Ultimately, the court is not obligated to follow a child’s wishes, but it is obligated to do what’s in the child’s best interests. 

Child custody determinations are often contentious and confusing. Aside from the typical factors involving the parent’s criminal history, the quality of the family relationship, and the child’s maturity level, there are also some other factors to take into account. 

The court has to consider all these variables in order to make a good decision. Many judges are hesitant to go down a path that involves swaying the opinion of 16 or 17-year-olds. On the other hand, the same is not true for older children. Often, these kids are old enough to weigh in on the best way to spend their time, but they might not be mature enough to know what they’re saying. 

Finally, there’s the court-appointed guardian ad litem. A court-appointed guardian ad-litem is an adult appointed by the court to act as the voice of the child. Unlike a lawyer, this person will not be able to represent the child directly.