#10 What age can a child choose custody?

November 10, 2016


CLICK ON TITLE TO WATCH VIDEO. TEXT OF VIDEO: Hi, my name is Dave Hunter, and I am an attorney and mediator here in Utah County, Utah. This video answers the question: What age does a child have to be to choose with which parent they want to live? This is probably the most common question I get from parents. It is also probably the most misunderstood topic out there in custody law here in Utah. Most of the time people ask me to confirm what the “heard” out there. Many believe that a child can simple pack up and move by choice at 12, or 14 or 16. However, the correct answer is that there is no age, so the age is 18, the age a child emancipates and becomes an adult. So, in Utah, a child is never given the choice to choose with whom they live. In other words, a child does not get to – or better said, they don’t have to choose between their parents. The parents decide, and if they cannot decide, you can have the court decide for you. The law of Utah, like every other state, provides that custody is determined by what is in the child’s best interests—which may be in line or out of line with the child’s preference. Preference is taken into account with many other factors, such as primary care-taker status, flexibility of schedules, domestic violence, stability of environment, and many others. However, there are laws in Utah about what age a child’s PERFERENCE is taken into consideration and how much weight is given to a child’s preference when a court decides. The weight a child’s preference receives from a court depends on the child’s age, intelligence and maturity. Utah Code 30-3-10(1)(e) is the controlling statute and states, “The court may inquire of the children and take into consideration the children's desires regarding future custody or parent-time schedules, but the expressed desires are not controlling and the court may determine the children's custody or parent-time otherwise. The desires of a child 14 years of age or older shall be given added weight, but is not the single controlling factor.” In practice, it is a case by case and child by child standard. For example, you might have a 14 year old who is articulate and put a lot of thought into his preference and articulates his preference, by stating, I have made poor choice in friends, slacked off in school, and having a difficult time getting along with my mom, and I want to have a fresh start by changing schools and living with my dad, who can help me get to where I want to be. Doesn’t that sound like some good reasons, as opposed to a 15 y-year-old who may state that he wants to live with dad because he doesn’t bug me about chores and homework and he has a cool X-Box machine? Not necessarily a mature reason. So there you have it. There is not age, but at 14 their preference is given greater weight. I hope this information was useful. Call today to schedule a case review, or visit our website for more information. [HunterLawUtah.com 801-802-2222] Please like us below and leave a comment, and watch my other videos. Thank you for watching

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