November 17, 2020 — countless separating parents incorrectly think their son can select whom to live with.

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In reality, Georgia is the just U.S. State that lets a child select who takes physics custody of them. Also then, the child need to be 14 or older, and also their selection must be authorized by a judge.

Thirteen claims don"t have statutes inquiry a referee to consider a child"s preference as soon as deciding custody. All various other states (plus Washington, D.C.) do; judges there must take the see of mature youngsters into account.


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These findings come indigenous an evaluation of current state law by Custody X Change, which offers parents a web app for regulating custody via education plans, calendars, cost tracking and also more. (Scroll to finish for complete state-by-state data.)

"If you go to court end custody, you require to understand your state"s approach to many topics, consisting of a child"s best to share their opinion," stated Ben Coltrin, Custody X adjust co-founder and also president. "There"s conflict over what"s more important: letting a child have actually a to speak or shielding them native parental disputes. How your state and also judge check out the issue will affect your case."

"There"s debate over what"s an ext important: letting a child have actually a speak or shielding them from parental disputes."-Ben Coltrin, Custody X change president

It"s essential to note that many custody decisions space made by parental in settlement agreements; this parents can consider their child"s opinion yet they want. When parents can"t reach agreement, climate a referee decides what custody setup would offer the child"s finest interests.

Once the court issues a custody order, the child should comply. This way your kid or daughter can not refuse to check out a parental who has been vested custody or visitation time.

How old need to a kid be to sweet in?

All states permit judges to think about the preference of a child in a custody case, as long as the son is sufficiently mature. And, as we experienced above, a huge portion of states require judges to take a maturation child"s opinion right into account.

So as soon as is a boy mature? most states don"t set a details age, instead letting judges decide case by case.

When law do mention an age, 14 is many common. Three says (California, brand-new Mexico and West Virginia) presume children 14 and older are sufficiently mature, while 2 (Indiana and Utah) give extra load to the opinions of youngsters in this range.

Another 4 states (Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and also Texas) presume kids 12 and up space mature sufficient to form a choice worth examining.

Georgia regulation sets the youngest age. It says kids 11 and up have the right to share their thoughts with the court. (And, remember, Georgia youngsters at the very least 14 year old can pick which parental to live with, although a judge deserve to override the choice if necessary.)

All this states provide judges leeway come hear native younger youngsters who seem specifically mature.


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Overall, the older a son is, the much more impact your wishes have actually on their custody case.

If your kid is at the very least 14, a judge in any kind of state is likely to hear what they need to say. ~ above the various other hand, a kid in the solitary digits probably won"t gain to weigh in. Children in between these two groups loss in a gray area, and whether lock can administer input counts on your state, judge and also maturity level.


Nationwide, kids 14 and above can typically weigh in top top custody rulings. Kids 9 and also under usually can"t. The rest autumn in a gray area.

How a child"s opinion fits right into the large picture

A referee never has to award custody follow to a child"s wishes. Other components — such as each parent"s criminal background and bond through the boy — always come into play.

In addition, a judge tries to evaluate whether a child"s preference for one parent is due to persuasion or leniency by that parent, i beg your pardon would offer the preference much less validity indigenous the court"s perspective.

For example, a 15-year-old may not gain to live with her mom as she desire if evidence shows the mother lets her journey without a license. In contrast, a 12-year-old v concrete reasons for to like a perfect parent might have substantial influence top top a judge"s ruling.

How kids share their opinions

Children generally do not testify around their preferences in court due to the fact that the experience can be emotional and also frightening.

Instead, they typically share your thoughts in conversation with the judge, a custody evaluator or who appointed through the court to represent their understanding (like a guardian ad litem). In Georgia, a boy who"s at least 11 have the right to turn in a composed affidavit.

Interviews through the judge take ar in the judge"s office and are therefore known together in-chambers or in-camera hearings. Generally, a court reporter and the child"s legal representative attend. Sometimes the parents" attorneys space also enabled in however not the parents themselves.

Some judges ask the child straight whom they"d prefer to live with, while others only ask related concerns like, "What carry out you execute for fun through your mom?" In specific states, both parents should consent before the child might speak v a judge. Other factors that vary include whether parents have the right to suggest concerns for the interview and whether they deserve to read the transcript.

State-by-state data

StateJudge must think about a maturation child"s opinion?Age guidelines in the law
CaliforniaYesA boy 14 or older gets to deal with the court, unless the court determines it"s not in the child"s ideal interest. A kid under 14 additionally gets to resolve the court if it"s in their ideal interest.
GeorgiaYesA child 14 or older has actually the right to pick which parent they live with, uneven a judge finds the selected parental does no serve the child"s best interests. The referee considers the desire of a boy at least 11 but not however 14.
IndianaYesThe court considers the wishes of the child, with an ext consideration provided if the child is at least 14.
MississippiYesIf the court considers both parental fit to have actually custody, the chancellor (judge) may consider the choice of a child 12 or older.
New HampshireNo
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYesIf the kid is 14 or older, the court considers their desires. If the son is under 14, the court decides custody per the child"s finest interests, considering components like the child"s wishes.
New YorkNo
North CarolinaNo
North DakotaYes
OklahomaYesThe kid gets to express a preference if the court find this is in the child"s finest interest. The court considers the preference if the boy is old sufficient to type an intelligent opinion. There"s a presumption a son 12 or over is old enough.
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYes
South DakotaNo
TennesseeYesThe court considers the reasonable choice of a son 12 or older. The court may hear the choice of a younger child. An enlarge child"s preference is normally given greater weight.
TexasYesA son 12 or older gets to speak through the court in private. A kid under 12 may get to.
UtahNoThe court may think about the wishes of the child, considering the child"s maturity. The desire of a boy 14 or older get included weight.
Washington, D.C.

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West VirginiaYesThe court accommodates the choices of a son 14 or older, if it"s in the child"s ideal interests. It likewise accommodates the choices of a younger son mature sufficient to express an opinion, as long as this is in the child"s best interests.