For many children of divorce, there comes a time when shuffling back and forth between mom's house and dad's house becomes a hassle. Whether it happens when a child enters middle school and begins sports and other activities, or it is during high school when their social life and work schedule get full, many older children have a preference on where they want to live. Unfortunately, in many states like Colorado, what a child wants doesn't outweigh what the family court believes is in their best interest.
It is public policy to award and visitation based on the model of what is best for the child involved. The family court takes numerous considerations into account when making a determination for custody. When parents of older children get divorced, one of those considerations may be the child's own preference. However, without supporting the child's preference through other elements of consideration, the family court may place little importance on what a child wants.
The family court makes custody determinations after looking into things such as the parent's physical and mental health, their ability to support their children and the emotional bonds between parent and child. If for example, a child wishes to live with dad because he was the primary caretaker and mom's health and financial situation is not the best, the family court will place more importance on the child's preference because it fits the best interest model.
Contrary to common belief, there is no definitive age where a child can choose which parent to live with. Short of a child reaching the age of 18, the family court may use a child's preference as one of the many considerations used to determine custody and placement. Parents concerned with how their child's placement preferences will be viewed in the family court may benefit from speaking to an experienced family law attorney.