When Can a Child Decide to Live with a Noncustodial Parent?

Divorced parents or separated parents might wonder, “When can a child decide which parent to reside with?” Arizona is like many other states where there is no magic age listed in the statute.

Instead, the court considers what is best for the child when determining legal decision-making authority and living arrangements. The courts have the power to interview the child at any age or have an appointed person (such as a Conciliation Services provider, Therapeutic Interventionist, or Family Assessment Evaluator) interview them. As a parent, you have the right to request the interview if you feel your child’s wishes need to be expressed.

Other Factors are Considered, Too, for Legal Decision-Making Authority

While a child’s choice holds some weight, the court has a multitude of factors to review before determining living arrangements.

Under ARS Section 25-403, the factors include:

  • Relationship: The past, present and possible relationships in the future between each parent and the child(ren).
  • Interaction: How the child interacts with each parent, siblings, and anyone who might affect the child’s greatest interests.
  • Adjustment: How the child would adjust if they must relocate, and how that home, school, and community affects the child.
  • Capacity: Each parent’s ability to care for the child, including health and psychiatric conditions, is considered.
  • Age: If the child is of reasonable age and maturity, his or her wishes on legal decision-making authority and parenting time might play a role.
  • More Willing Parent: The court also looks at which parent is more likely to facilitate a relationship with the child and the other parent.

A Child’s Choice is Not Determinative

With so many elements at play, your child’s preferences are not always the final deciding factor. The court does not consistently agree with the child, notably if the child opts for a parent who is not the most suitable guardian. However, an older child that has established the maturity to accept the repercussions of his or her decision may have sway with the court.

A family law attorney from Udall Shumway, PLC can help you decide the best route to take with respect to whether it is wise to pursue an interview of your child.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding When Can a Child Decide, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Steven H. Everts at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.