At What Age Can A Child Decide Which Parent They Want To Live With?

Divorce is hard on the entire family, especially for children who may not understand the circumstances surrounding the divorce or all of the nuances of their parents’ relationship. Children may have a difficult time processing the emotions that come along with a divorce and the dismantling of the family unit as they know it. One aspect of a divorce case that can become a point of contention between parents is which parent the child (or children) will live with post-divorce. Often times, if the child is old enough, they will want to be a part of the decision as to which parent they will live with.

As divorce attorneys, we are frequently presented with the question: “at what age is a child legally able to decide which parent they want to live with?”  There is a common misconception that Florida Law allows for a child over the age of 12 to decide which parent they would like to live with. If the child is under the age of 18 and considered a minor in the state of Florida, the actual standard in Florida to determine which parent the child should live with is “the best interest of the child” and is NOT based on a specific age. While the child cannot decide completely which parent to live with, the judge or court will determine if the will of the child is admissible in the case. Child testimony is not common, but if the child has a voice in the matter, their preference is one factor considered by the judge in making the decision.

There is not a specific age set by Florida Law as a standard in determining if the child’s preference will be taken into account or not. The older and more mature the child, the more persuasive their preference may be during the case. The child’s preference can help persuade the court especially if there are third party character witnesses involved such as a caregiver, teacher, doctor or coach testifying on your behalf.

If you are going through or considering divorce and there are children involved, it’s imperative that you hire a Tampa divorce attorney that understands the nuances of divorce, child custody, and family law. Family attorney Christina Anton Garcia and the team of divorce and family attorneys at Anton Garcia Law are highly experienced in child custody cases and will advocate for your and your children’s best interest when it comes to who your children should reside with.