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Holland & Usry, P.A.

At what age can my children decide which parent they want to live with?

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The law in South Carolina says that in determining the best interest of a child, the court must consider the child’s reasonable preference for custody. The law goes on to say the court shall place weight upon the preference based on the child’s age, experience, maturity, judgment, and ability to express a preference.

So, the court must consider the child’s preference, but how much weight the court gives a child’s preference depends on the specific circumstances.

The Family Court has the ability to order that one parent shall have custody of a child until that child is 18. However, generally speaking, greater weight is given to the child’s preference the older the child is. For example, it is somewhat obvious very little weight should be given to that of a six-year-old. Most would agree that a six-year-old lacks the maturity to make informed decisions as to what is in his best interest. It is in the best interest of a child that age to have a well-balanced dinner; however, if you explain this to the child and asked him if instead he would like to eat ice cream for dinner, you would be hard pressed to find the child who did not choose the ice cream.

The courts have said a six-year-old’s preference should be given minimal weight. They have also said the preferences of a ten-year-old do not rise to a level of “great weight” that should be given to that of a 16-year-old.

It is foreseeable that if a 16-year-old child wished to live with his father, but the father is a bookie, the court could very easily overlook the wishes of the 16-year-old child. The courts have said that they will look unfavorably on permissiveness of one parent, or if a parent puts pressure on a child to prefer that parent.

Obviously, many 12-year-olds would prefer to live with a parent who did not enforce bedtimes or require school participation such as homework. But almost everyone would agree that sort of lack of discipline or permissiveness would not be in the child’s best interest.

At the end of the day the child’s preference is only one factor the court considers, and the impact that it has on each case will very widely based on case to case. Each case is different. How much weight your child’s preference would be given is unique to your case and to your child.

At Holland & Usry, we dedicate a large part of our practice to custody cases in Spartanburg County. If you would like to talk to one of our lawyers about your case, please feel free to contact us at 864-582-01416 or toll free at 888-230-1841 and schedule an appointment.

 

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