There is a misconception about children choosing which parent to live with once they reach a certain age, such as 12, 13, or 14. If you heard that once a child turns 12 or 13 in New York, they can choose which parent to live with, that’s not exactly true.
At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With in NY?
In New York, there is no specific age when a child can decide who they want to live with. The court has the final say until the child turns 18. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Children do not have the power to choose their destiny in child custody disputes – only judges have that ability.
“But don’t judges listen to children’s wishes?” Yes, absolutely. Family court judges are interested in hearing about a child’s preference; however, more weight is given to a mature child and an older child. But those factors alone are insufficient to guarantee children will get what they want. Children are easily manipulated by adults and enticed by the promise of no rules, expensive gifts, and brand-new cars, and judges are keenly aware of this.
Best Interests of the Child Doctrine
Parents have much leeway regarding child custody if they can agree on a schedule, but if parents are fighting over child custody, a non-biased, objective judge will have to step in and decide on the matter. In all child custody disputes in New York, judges consider the following factors and how they relate to the best interests of the child:
- The child’s preference
- The parents’ reasons for wanting custody
- The age and health of both parents
- Each parent’s ability to support their child
- Any history of domestic violence
- Any history of substance abuse
- Any history of abandonment or child neglect
- Any criminal record history
- Each parent’s schedule
- The child’s ties to their school and the community
New York State Criteria for Unfit Parent
Suppose you seek an arrangement where you have primary or even sole custody of your child. In that case, the judge will want to know if the other parent is financially independent, emotionally stable, and loving. Do they meet this criterion, or do they lack good parenting skills? Again, the judge will want to know.
In the absence of substance abuse, criminal behavior, and domestic violence, the judge may lean toward a joint custody arrangement if you live in the same community and are both fighting for custody. But if the other parent creates an unhealthy home environment and threatens your child’s well-being, the judge will need to be made aware of this.