QUESTION: “At what age can my child choose where to live?”

Children can never decide a custody case. If parents can’t agree on where a child will live, the decision is left up to the courts. The courts will consider the wishes of the child as well as 15 other custody factors.

Considerations When a Child Has a Custody Request

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s maturity
  • The child’s educational and extra-curricular activities
  • The environment in each home
  • Emotional of physical risks to the child
  • Best interests of the child

Does your child have a definite opinion about where she wants to live after the divorce? Does she really want to be with a particular parent? Or, is she more worried about changing schools?

The truth is that a young child’s preference can change from day to day and even from moment to moment. This means that an older child’s opinion is more likely to be considered that the opinion of a younger child. However, maturity also makes a difference. While most teens get to have a voice in the custody process, the opinion of a teen with a history of behavior problems may not get the same consideration as the opinion of a more responsible child the same age.

This makes sense. A 15-year-old with a history of shoplifting may prefer to stay with the parent least likely to provide supervision.

Pennsylvania courts will consider the custody preference of a younger child if the request is based on intelligent, well-thought out reasons. An eight-year-old who is a straight A student and dedicated violinist may have be granted the request to stay in her current home if her decision is based on wanting to continue to play with her award-winning orchestra rather than the fact that she doesn’t like Dad’s cooking or that Mom makes her practice for an hour a day.

Sometimes children will express a preference to not spend any time with a particular parent. These requests are weighed very carefully. The courts recognize while there may be a good reason for such a request, these requests may also be the result of parental influence. Parents should never try to influence a child’s opinion. This can cause unnecessary stress for the child and is frowned upon by the courts. Trying to influence your child, could cause you to lose custody.

A Philadelphia child custody attorney can help you win your child custody case without involving your child. For more information about Pennsylvania child custody, please contact Petrelli Previtera at 215-645-4297.