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Can my child decide who she wants to live with after the divorce?

In 2014, there were over 800,000 divorces or annulments in the U.S.—a little over 3 divorces per every 1,000 people. Divorce is often a very difficult time, and both parties must work to divide property, work out alimony, and sometimes determine custody of their children. Even if the divorce is amicable, children can still feel a sense of loss and confusion about who they’re going to live with and a child's choice in divorcehow the custody process will work.

What the Law Says

A child’s right to choose which parent to live with relies heavily on age. According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A) § 19-9-3, (5)-(6), a child who’s reached the age of 14 may decide who to live with. The court will also evaluate if the child’s choice is in her best interests. When a child reaches the age of 11, the court will take the child’s opinion of the following into consideration:

  • Parental relationship
  • Educational desires and needs
  • Social relationships and obligations
  • Overall best interests of the child

If a child is younger than 11, she will be left out of the decision entirely.

Defining “Best Interests”

During the custody proceedings, you will likely hear the term “best interests” many times. A judge considers 17 factors when determining “best interests.” Here are a few questions judges consider about the child’s best interests:

  • Which parent met the needs of the child before the divorce?
  • Is either parent in a better state of mental or physical health than the other?
  • Is one parent more willing to allow the child open communication with the other parent?
  • Does one parent have a more demanding job than the other?

If both parents meet the court’s standards, the judge often uses the teen’s choice as a final deciding factor. However, if the teen’s choice directly opposes the court’s preference, it is highly unlikely that the judge will honor the teen’s preference.

The divorce process can be confusing. If you have questions about your divorce and custody case, the experienced lawyers at Duffy & Feemster can help. Fill out the contact form on our website to get started today.


Dwight T. Feemster
Dwight is a civil and criminal attorney in Georgia.

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