When Can My Child Decide?

Sophya Qureshi Raza

By Sophya Qureshi Raza



I often receive calls from people who want to modify their custody schedule because their child is old enough to decide where he wants to live. They ask “how old does a child have to be to decide which parent he or she wants to live with”?

It is a very common misconception that there’s a law out there stating that a child can chose to live with Mom or Dad at a specific age. Fourteen is the age most suspect it might be. No such law exists in Missouri.

In Missouri, the reality is that custody determinations are made based upon the “best interests of the child.”  When it comes to those best interests, the statute lists several factors that the court must consider including:

1. Wishes of the child’s parents;

2. Needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;

3. Interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, etc;

4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;

5. Child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community;

6. Mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;

7. Intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and

8. The wishes of the child as to the child’s custodian.

So even though your child’s wishes are taken into consideration, it’s just one of the eight factors.

In my experience, children over 12 years old are more likely to be listened to than a younger child who states a preference on which parent to live with. The factors above are definitely subjective and and judges seem to decide differently in every situation. It’s always better if mom and dad (and the kids) can agree on their own.


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