When Can a Child Choose Where He Wants to Live?

This is probably one of the most common questions family law attorneys get asked in child custody cases.  The short answer is a child cannot choose where he wants to live until he is no longer a child, i.e. he turns 18.  Both Kentucky and Illinois have provisions which allow the Court to interview the child in private to ascertain the child's wishes as to who will be his custodian and a visitation schedule.  That doesn't mean the court will abide by the child's wishes.

Before putting a child in this stressful position, one should be very sure that it will actually benefit the child's best interest.  In some instances, the child is the only person who can provide that court with information pertinent to the court's decision, such as living conditions at the other parent's residence.  However, if the hope is that the child will tell the judge that he wants to live with you, it probably will not happen.  Most judges will not directly ask the child where he wants to live.

This does not mean that child interviews never add value to a case, but it is only one aspect to that case.  However, the older the child is, the more weight his wishes tend to carry with the court.  In other words, a judge is much more likely to respect the statements of a sixteen year old over a nine year old.

In the end, you should discuss this issue with your attorney to decide if asking the judge to interview your child would be in his best interests.  In order to properly evaluate that, you need the services of a law office that focuses on family law.

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