At What Age Can A Child Choose A Parent to Live With in PA?

At What Age Can A Child Choose A Parent to Live With in PA?

The short answer is, there is no set age unless the child is over the age of 18, at which point they are free to choose where they live.

If you are concerned that your child’s preference is not being considered by the court, or if you feel your child is being manipulated to express a preference not to live with you or not to visit you, call us. We have over 40 years of experience as child custody lawyers in Philadelphia, and we handle many child custody issues involving child preference, child manipulation, children refusing to visit, and parental alienation in PA.

Contact our child custody lawyers to discuss your concerns. We can help your family get the best child custody and visitation arrangement possible.

Child Preference is One of 16 Factors a Judge Considers When Awarding Custody

There are 16 statutory child custody factors that aJudge must consider when awarding child custody in Pennsylvania, and the child’s preference is one of them.

These factors may not weigh equally in the judge’s decision. For example, if a parent is unfit or unable to provide a safe nurturing environment for their child, that fact can take precedence over the other factors.

  1. Child Custody Factor #1: The willingness of the parents to allow and encourage the child to spend time with the other parent.
  2. Child Custody Factor #2: Whether there is a history of child abuse in the household and which parent can best keep the child safe.
  3. Child Custody Factor #3: The parenting each parent currently performs for the child.
  4. Child Custody Factor #4: What arrangement will maintain stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and activities.
  5. Child Custody Factor #5: What arrangement takes advantage of the availability of the child’s extended family.
  6. Child Custody Factor #6: The child’s relationship with their siblings.
  7. Child Custody Factor #7: The child’s preference.
  8. Child Custody Factor #8: Whether there have been attempts at parental alienation.
  9. Child Custody Factor #9: Whether one parent is more likely to meet the child’s emotional needs.
  10. Child Custody Factor #10: Whether one parent is more likely to attend to the daily needs of the child.
  11. Child Custody Factor #11: The proximity of the parents’ households.
  12. Child Custody Factor #12: The parents’ ability to care for the child or to provide appropriate child care.
  13. Child Custody Factor #13: Whether there is continuing conflict between the parents.
  14. Child Custody Factor #14: Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse.
  15. Child Custody Factor #15: Whether either parent has a physical or mental condition that affects their ability to care for the child.
  16. Child Custody Factor #16: Any other relevant information.

At What Age Will a Judge Listen to a Child in PA?

The older a child is, or the more they are able to express a “reasoned” preference for living with one parent or another, the more likely the judge will consider their wishes when awarding child custody. The actual age of the child is much less relevant than the maturity of the child.

What is a “reasoned” preference?

It is a preference based on reasonable facts, such as a parent living in their school district, living closer to their friends or relatives, or being more available to spend time with them or attend their activities. A child preferring to live with one parent because that parent lets them stay up later, or allows them to eat junk food, or has a cooler car is not a reasoned preference.

At What Age Can a Child Decide if They Want to Visit the Other Parent?

A related question to the issue of when a child can decide who to live in PA with is, what do you do if your child does not want to see the other parent? At what age can a child refuse to see the other parent in PA?

The answer to these also depends upon the child’s maturity and ability to express a reasoned preference, not strictly age. If there is a reasonable explanation for the child not wanting to visit a parent, for example, if the visit conflicts with an activity, or the child does not like the parent’s new boyfriend or girlfriend, this will be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that no family law judge in PA will tolerate attempts to manipulate a child to dislike the other parent, refuse to visit them, or decide not to live with them. Proof of parental alienation can result in custody being awarded to the alienated parent.

Our PA Child Custody Lawyers Can Help Your Family

There is rarely a perfect solution when the parents dispute child custody and a judge must decide. We advocate for the best interests of your child, including the preferences they express, and we will help you get the child custody arrangement that is best for your family.



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