When Do Children Get to Decide Where They Want to Live?
This post is part of a series I’m doing on Tennessee divorce myths that will not die. Today’s myth is that children, after they reach a certain age, get to decide where they want to live.
This is a pervasive and persistent myth, but children do not get to decide outright where they want to live. They don’t get to decide outright what the parenting schedule is going to be.
However, as with most myths, there is a grain of truth here. That grain of truth is that the court does consider a child’s preferences. Particularly, the court will consider a child’s reasonable preference if the child is at least 12 years old, and perhaps sometimes if the child is younger if the court decides that is pertinent and relevant to what is in the child’s best interests.
But the key here is going to be “reasonable.” What is a reasonable preference? “I want to live with dad because dad lets me stay up all night and eat pizza and play Xbox instead of doing my homework” is not a reasonable preference. That’s not a preference that preserves the child’s best interests. But “I’d rather live with dad because Mom is overbearing and difficult to deal with and I don’t get along with her” may be a reasonable preference given the situation. It’s very fact-specific.
However, the Court will simply consider the child’s preference, not just go with whatever the child says. It is one of many factors that a court is going to consider, and although it can be important and even dispositive in some situations, it isn’t always. It’s just not true that a child can outright decide where he or she is going to live or how much time he or she is going to spend with each parent.
If you have a question regarding divorce or child custody, please feel free to call me and set up a consultation.