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
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