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Can children decide which parent to stay with?

There is a common belief that once they reach a certain age, children can decide which parent they live with. In Michigan, children cannot make this choice until they reach 18, at which point they are no longer children, but adults.

As long as children remain minors, judges make the final decision on child custody.

Children’s opinions do matter

While children cannot choose which parent to stay with, judges do consider their opinions if they are of an age and maturity that the courts deem appropriate. In Michigan, there are 12 main factors courts consider when determining custody, and what the children want is only one of them. Others include the mental and physical health of the children and parents, the children’s maturity and the parents’ ability to care for the children properly.

There may be an interview

Generally, courts do not require children to testify in court since it can be a distressing experience. However, they may schedule an interview. This is usually a more intimate affair, one-on-one with the judge in his office or by video call. In certain cases, the court may appoint someone to speak on the children’s behalf, such as a counselor or a therapist.

Depending on their age and maturity, which are co-related in most situations, judges may consider which parent children want to stay with, but ultimately they decide. This is because they must make a choice that is in the children’s best interests, and this depends on multiple considerations. There are also concerns that parents may interfere and manipulate the children or that children may simply choose the “fun” parent rather than the one that provides the structure and care they need to thrive.