Do kids get to choose where they live?

Can A Child Choose Where They Will Live in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, or Oklahoma?

When a divorce or child custody case starts, many go to their lawyer and express that their children want to live with them versus the other parent. Often, they then think they have a simple case. Is this line of thinking correct? Do kids get to choose where they live in a divorce or custody case?

The truth is that courts make decision on custody and parenting time based on what is in the best interests of the child. In making this determination, courts look at what is in the best interests of the child and consider all the other statutory factors.

The fact of the matter is the desires of the child is one of the factors that the court can consider in figuring out what custody award to make. However, there are numerous different components that the court can also consider.

Thus, kids don't get to simply pick where they are going live. However, a court can absolutely consider the desires of a child. But it is not singularly dispositive. They court may want to unravel whether the reasons they want to live with one parent over the other are legitimate.

In the event that the reasons are legitimate, the court may give it greater weight. For example, if they have a more steady home there, can show signs of educational and other improvement and/or they can show that the other parent's home may detrimentally impact their emotional or physical development, a judge may be influenced. The age of the kids can have an impact. In other words, the older the child is, the more likely their desires may be considered.

Then again, if their reasons are bad, a judge could put little weight on the desires of the kids. Take situations where a child wants to live with one parent because they don't have a curfew or doesn't have to study or do their homework. When reasons like this are given, courts will usually not be swayed. 

Ultimately, the desires of the child is just one factor that the court can consider in making a custody or parenting time decision. It certainly isn't immaterial. However, it's not dispositive at the same time.

If you need help with a custody case, you can call us at 855-805-0595 or contact us online.