Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With After Divorce?

4Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With After Divorce?

When parents decide to divorce, one of the most difficult decisions they need to make is where the children will reside. In North Carolina, both parents have rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. Generally, children reside primarily with one parent while the other parent has regular visits. Many people wonder whether a child has any say-so as to which parent they will live with after the divorce.


How Does a Judge Decide Where a Child Should Live?

The judge will look at a number of factors when they decide child custody. If the parents are in agreement, the judge will take that into consideration. However, they may also review other things before they make this important decision. Some of these factors include:

  • The relationship of each parent with the child
  • Each parent’s physical and emotional health
  • The child’s establishment at school and in the community
  • A parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment
  • A parent’s history of domestic violence
  • A parent’s history of substance abuse
  • A parent’s history of child neglect or misconduct
  • The wishes of the child

The judge always makes sure that he advocates for the child. It is important to know that the judge will always make a decision based on the best interests of the child.


North Carolina Board Certified Family Law Specialist, managing member Matt Arnold answers the question “Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live with After Divorce?”


When Is A Child Old Enough To Decide Where to Live?

North Carolina does not have a specific law that dictates when a child is able to make a decision, such as where they want to reside. Children mature at different ages and it is up to the judge to make a determination as to whether a child is old enough to provide input into the living arrangement. When a child has a preference, the judge will listen and take the information into account. The judge will likely put more emphasis on an older child’s wishes because the child has a better understanding of the consequences of their decision.paper-family-ii-1176053-scaled


Will the Judge Listen to the Preference of a Child?

A child’s preference is just one of the many factors that a judge reviews when making the decision as to primary physical custody. The judge will want to make sure the child is making their choice on their own and is not being forced by one parent. At the same time, the judge needs to be certain the child is not making a choice just because one parent is stricter than the other. Parents should not treat their children as pawns in the divorce process. They should not threaten a child, nor should they try to give the child gifts.


In a divorce, the judge has to make the final decision on where a child will reside. The judge may talk to a child who has expressed his or her wishes to ensure that the child understands their decision. To learn more about child custody, contact our legal team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at (704) 370-2828 to schedule a consultation.

C, at (704) 370-2828 to request a consultation.




The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.




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