You have built your close relationship with your child since the day they were born. This may lead you to wonder how much that relationship and your child’s opinion will matter when the court determines a custody arrangement. Some parents even indulge their child in the hopes that their child will want to live with them. Can a child really choose where to live in a Washington divorce?
Your child’s preference may be one factor considered by the court.
Washington state does not allow children to choose where to live, but older, more mature children can voice a preference. Some states define a specific age where a child’s preference becomes a factor in custody determinations, but Washington takes an approach based on a child’s individual maturity.
This means that the opinion of a more mature child may have more weight than the opinion of another child of the same age. This may also mean that a younger child’s opinion could be a greater factor than an older child’s if the court decides that the younger child is more mature.
Your child’s preference is only one factor.
Courts determine child custody arrangements based on what will best support their emotional, mental and physical development. Often this is referred to as their “best interests.” While your child’s preference is one factor, a variety of other details also go into this determination. These can include your preference, both parents’ health, your child’s needs for education and healthcare, your child’s relationships with other family members and many other factors.
While your child my have some say in your custody arrangement, ultimately the court will work toward an arrangement that best provides for their needs as they grow.