You’ve always been the primary caretaker for your children, so it took you by surprise to learn that your 14-year-old now wants to live with their other parent.
You’re completely against the idea because you think your child is having an immature response to some temporary stressors at home or school. You don’t believe in running away from your problems. Your co-parent, however, is delighted at the idea and backs the change. “In any case,” they say, “the court will let a teenager pick where they want to live.”
Is this true? Not exactly.
Pennsylvania law does not have a “magic age” that allows a child to choose
There’s no bright line in PA law that gives a child of a certain age control over which parent has primary physical custody of them. All the law says is that “the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment” is a factor that the courts should consider when seeking to determine custody.
In practical terms, that means that the court may or may not choose to listen to what your child has to say about their living situation. If the court does hear your child out, you have room to show the court why you think your child’s sentiments are ungrounded or otherwise not in their best interests.
When a post-divorce custody dispute develops, take action to protect your interests
Parents can end up at odds over custody long after a divorce is initially settled — particularly when there are teenagers involved. Sometimes a parent will even try to manipulate a teen into “choosing” them through gifts and promises.
If you think a change in your child’s primary residence is a bad idea, don’t let myths and half-truths back you into a corner. Talk to an attorney to learn more about how custody decisions are made and what you can do to present your case.