Can a child choose which parent to live with?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | blog, Family Law

For couples proceeding with a divorce, questions about child custody arrangements often arise.

One such question that parents may ponder is whether a child can choose which parent to live with.

Age and maturity matter

In Minnesota, the court considers the child’s age and maturity level when determining if their preference for living with one parent over the other is a pressing factor. While there is no specific age at which a child’s opinion is automatically decisive, the court usually gives more weight to the preferences of older children who demonstrate a mature understanding of the situation.

Best interests of the child

Minnesota courts deal with more than 6,000 dissolution of marriage with a child cases each year. The guiding principle in each case is the best interests of the child. The court aims to ensure a custodial parent prioritizes a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Therefore, even if a child expresses a preference, the court will assess whether that preference aligns with their best interests.

Factors considered by the court

Minnesota law outlines several factors that the court must consider when determining custody arrangements. These include the child’s physical and emotional needs, the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment, the child’s relationship with each parent, and any history of domestic abuse or substance abuse by either parent.

While the court may not solely base its decision on a child’s preference, it does value the child’s input. If a child’s preference or the factors affecting their best interests change over time, parents can seek a modification of the custody order through the court.