Can my child decide where they want to live when they’re 13?

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2022 | Child Custody

Divorce and child custody can be stressful for you and your children. Often, children go through phases of preferring living with one parent or the other.

Typically, while your children are young, the court will not give much consideration to your children’s preferences. However, as they get older and custody needs change, your children may have the opportunity to provide input.

Here’s what you should know about when your children can decide which parent they want to live with.

It depends

As children grow up and mature, they start becoming more reliable decision-makers. In Washington, when children reach age 12, the court tends to pay more attention to the child’s preferences for custody situations.

However, a birthday is usually not enough to warrant a change in a child custody agreement; there are typically other factors, like scheduling changes, academic struggles or parental instability. When there are other factors that would warrant a child custody change, then the child’s preferences may be part of the decision.

Child’s best interest

While older children may not change their opinions as flippantly as their younger counterparts, a child’s preference for custody is still not the sole guide for making a decision. Ultimately, the court will still look at the best interest of the child, including:

  • Parent’s mental health
  • Stability of each parent
  • Child’s relationship with siblings and other family members

As the child gets older, courts give more weight to the child’s opinion. Still, the child’s preference is not the only factor in determining custody.