Can My Child Decide Where to Live after the Divorce?

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Many divorcing parents are concerned about whether or not their children’s preferences will affect the outcome of their custody disputes. While this is a seemingly reasonable concern, it isn’t how the law works. The fact is that, in Ohio – and every other state – every child custody determination is based on the best interests of the involved children. An experienced Ohio child custody attorney can help you better understand how child custody concerns – such as where your children will live – are determined and can help protect your parental rights throughout the legal process. 

The Court’s Stance

In Ohio child custody cases (whether within a divorce or outside of divorce), the best interests of the children always guide the court. Because children don’t have the maturity to make parenting decisions for themselves (which is a parental responsibility), their preferences regarding where they want to live are generally not a deciding factor. While the court may take your children’s preferences and concerns into consideration (if they are mature enough to weigh in and to share their authentic wishes), there are a wide range of factors that go into this determination.

When a Child’s Choice Reigns

The only time that your children’s preferences will determine which parent they live with post-divorce is if they share their choices with you, and you and their other parent incorporate their wishes into your child custody terms. But you, as the parents, will be making the final decision. The fact is that, if you and your divorcing spouse can hammer out child custody terms between yourselves, the court is almost certain to include them in your parenting plan. If not, however, the court will make the determinations on your behalf – guided by the children’s best interests.

Factors that the Court Takes into Consideration

When the court makes decisions about whom the children will live with primarily, it takes factors like the following into consideration:

  • Both parent’s preferences
  • Each child’s preference and concerns
  • Each child’s relationship with each parent and every other family member
  • The physical and mental health of both parents and each child
  • Each child’s level of adjustment at home, at school, and in the community
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to facilitate and encourage an ongoing, healthy relationship between each child and his or her other parent

In order to determine your children’s preferences and concerns regarding whom they’ll be living with primarily, the judge may speak to each of them privately in his or her chambers (where an appointed guardian ad litem – or GAL – may be present). It is, however, a matter of the judge’s discretion whether or not he or she will interview one or more of your children regarding their preferences. 

Discuss Your Concerns with an Experienced Ohio Child Custody Attorney

If you have a child custody concern, the focused Ohio child custody attorneys at The VanNoy Firm understand the gravity of the matter and are committed to helping you resolve the issue favorably – in protection of your parental rights. We’re on your side and here to help, so please don’t wait to contact us for more information today.



About The Author

Anthony S. VanNoy

Trial Attorney

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