When Can Children Choose Whom They Live With?

Child custody can be one of the most challenging parts of a divorce. Your children are an essential part of your life and having to compromise on when you can see them can be frustrating.

Divorce can be even more difficult for children, especially since they tend to feel like many of the decisions are out of their control. In some cases, however, courts will consider a child’s opinion about whom they live with.

This is what you should know about when courts start to look to children to help determine custody after a divorce.

The Best Interest of the Child

It’s a phrase that quickly becomes all too familiar when you are going through a divorce and deciding who will have custody of the children, “the best interest of the child.” It is a short phrase, but it includes many factors, such as:

  • Ability to care and provide for the child
  • Continuity of care
  • Stability of the home
  • Financial support and stability
  • School and other social activities
  • Evidence of abuse

The court takes these and other “best interest” factors seriously to ensure that the children receive quality care. The court also does not want to set a parent up to fail by awarding custody to a parent who is not in a stable living situation.

Age Matters

Deciding on child custody can be especially traumatic for a child. When possible, courts prefer to avoid putting children in a position where they would have to speak for or against a parent. As they get older, however, courts are more willing to include the opinions of the children.

In Georgia, children who are 14 years old or older have the most influence regarding which parent they will live with. While the court may still intercede when living with a particular parent is not in their best interest, once a child is 14, their opinion typically carries the most weight.

In some cases, children between the ages of 11 and 13 may have some influence regarding whom they live with, but significantly less than when they are older.