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I Want to Live with Daddy: Custody Changes and your Child 
 
by Jami Cameron July 12, 2005

Whether you’ve been divorced for several years or just a few months, there is always a haunting fear that your child will utter a phrase that you, the custodial parent, never wants to hear - “I want to live with daddy/mommy.” While it may hurt to hear those words coming out of the mouth of a child you have raised up until this point, don’t flip out. Learn how to handle it like an adult, and for your child’s sake – do the right thing.

Unfortunately, divorce is a fact of life for many couples who get married. And oftentimes, the children who were brought into the world by both of their parents and are powerless over the divorce decision are left wondering why this is happening to them.

While this is a very complex time for all parties involved, children may have somewhat of a harder time with their parents’ divorce – they did not cause the dissolution, and are stuck in the sidelines and given no rights when considering the status of their home life.

So, it isn’t surprising, yet never great news, when your child states clearly that they want to live with the other parent. Of course this could be said during a heated argument with the custodial parent, but what if they really mean it?

When a child has a right to choose

There is a simple age that all children can choose which parent they want to live with – 18. At that time, they are officially adults, and have control over their destiny – physically and mentally.

But, that does not mean that a child who wishes to live with the non-custodial parent will never get that chance. In most courts across the United States, children who are at a mature age (normally 12-13 years of age or older) and are adamant about living with the other parent can file an Affidavit of Preference – or an official court document stating the child’s desire to live with the non-custodial parent. It is then up to the courts to decide what is best for the child – and if the want or desire is genuine, not spiteful or based on wishes of lesser rules and discipline, the courts may side with the child.

The judge’s decision is based on many factors:

  • Is the child’s desire to change living arrangements valid?
  • Is the child mature enough to understand the meaning of changing households and the repercussions that follow the change?
  • Can the child clearly state why they want to live with the other parent?
  • Would living with the other parent drastically affect the child’s life – positively or negatively?
  • Can the non-custodial parent provide stability in the child’s life?
  • Is there an obvious benefit or long-term gain with living with the other parent?

Once these questions are thoroughly answered and evaluated, then the judge is ready to make his decision. But, if the judge still needs more information, he or she will sometimes speak privately with the child.

This can be a very sticky situation – the child is then forced to tell an objective person that he/she chooses another parent over the other. This places an added pressure on the child, and can have long term affects on his/her life. But, if the court deems it necessary, then it is just another step in deciding custody.

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