When Can a Child Decide Where to Live?

There is nothing in Missouri law that allows the minor child in a divorce or child custody case to decide where to live.  A child can express his or her wishes as to where he or she wants to live which happens at a divorce or child custody trial. But the children’s wishes are just one factor among many factors for a court to consider. A judge is required to consider the following factors in determining child custody:

Child Custody Factors

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
  2. The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  5. The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
  6. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved.  If the court finds that a pattern of domestic violence as defined in section 455.010 has occurred, and, if the court also finds that awarding custody to the abusive parent is in the best interest of the child, then the court shall enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law.  Custody and visitation rights shall be ordered in a manner that best protects the child and any other child or children for whom the parent has custodial or visitation rights, and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence from any further harm;
  7. The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
  8. The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian.  The fact that a parent sends his or her child or children to a home school, as defined in section 167.031, shall not be the sole factor that a court considers in determining custody of such child or children.

Child’s Wishes

The older the child, the more weight the court seems to give to the child’s wishes, but this does not mean the child simply decides where to live. Children don’t always make the best decisions for themselves which is why a child does not get to solely decide where he or she is going to live. There may be times where a child wants to live with one parent, but the rest of the evidence supports that a child should not live with that parent. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Each court case is unique. Once a child reaches the age of 18, the custody schedule no longer applies because the child is an adult. Therefore, at age 18, a child can decide wherever he or she wants to live.

Contact Scott Hamblin

Contact Scott if you have any additional questions about this article or your personal situation.

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