Can my child decide who to live with after our divorce?

A Young Girl Holding Paper People Cut OutsYour child cannot decide which parent they want to live with after your divorce. However, their preferences may be considered by the judge in making a custody decision. Here’s what you need to know about this important issue, so you are prepared if your child wants to live with you or you are worried that they will pick your spouse.

How Child Custody Is Determined in Virginia

In our state, parents can agree on custody and parenting time and ask the court to approve it, or the court can decide these issues in a contested divorce. The judge would base their decision on the best interests of the child. Many factors are considered and include:

  • Age, physical condition, and mental health of the child
  • Child’s relationship with each parent and their involvement in their child’s life
  • Child’s needs, which include their relationships with siblings, friends, and other family members
  • Role that the parents have played in raising their child and their role in parenting in the future
  • Each parent’s ability to foster a close relationship with their child
  • Child’s preference, depending on their age, intelligence, and experience

When Will a Child’s Preferences Be Considered in Custody Decisions?

A judge must consider the child’s age, intelligence, and experience when deciding whether their preference on which parent to live with should be considered. There is no set age when a child’s opinion on custody will be seriously listened to by the judge. However, children who are 12 years old or older are more likely to have the maturity, intelligence, and experience to make a reasonable decision on who to live with.

In addition, a judge can weigh the child’s reason for wanting to live with one parent over the other one. For example, wanting to live with a parent because they let the child stay up later or eat more junk food would not be given any weight by the court. However, if a child is genuinely closer to one parent and spends much more time with them, this could be an important factor in granting the child’s preference.

Are you worried about who will be awarded custody of your child in your divorce? Call our Norfolk office to schedule your free consultation with a member of our family law legal team to find out what to expect in your divorce and how we can help protect your rights.