Child Custody is not a decision left to children

Somehow, it has become a common misconception that when a child reaches a magic age, usually around twelve or thirteen, he is now capable of deciding what is in his best interests and where he should live. Anyone who believes this is a good idea across the board, has either blocked their pubescent years from their memory or had a much different adolescence than I did. I can distinctly remember my cousins getting their hands on some contraband fireworks from Missouri one summer when I was about thirteen. We had a lot of fun blowing up ant hills and shooting bottle rockets at each other from our ramshackle "forts," but I would hardly say these decisions were in our best interests.

The fact of the matter is, many states, Kentucky and Illinois included, do have provisions where the court can consider the wishes of the child as to the decision of child custody. However, those wishes are merely one factor for the court to consider and the older the child, the more weight his/her wishes will be given. I get asked on a fairly routine basis at what age can a child decide where he/she will live and I usually glibly reply, "eighteen." The fact of the matter is, in the eyes of the law, a child is a child until he/she is eighteen. Until then, the child must be cared for by his/her parents or some other guardian. Therefore, it is the parents who should be deciding where the child lives and if they can't, then it is up to the courts.

Once the child reaches eighteen, however, he's on his own. My colleague Jim Calloway on his extremely informative blog tipped me off to It was developed by the bar association in Washoe County, Nevada, but it is full of practical advice for kids turning eighteen across the country and should be required reading for all newly minted "adults."