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Can A Teenager Choose Which Parent To Live With In A Divorce?

According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, custody arrangements for children are determined by a judge based on what is in the child’s best interest. Although the state encourages ongoing parental involvement, the court may consider the child’s preference in certain circumstances. If you have questions about parental rights or need more information about custody, contact the Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 and learn “Can a teenager choose which parent to live with?” in your specific family situation.

What Factors Determine Custody in Colorado?

While divorcing parents do often come to a mutual agreement regarding the custody of their children, there are times when this is not possible. In these situations, the court will have to make the critical final decision regarding custody. Before coming to a final resolution, the judge will take into account several factors, including the following:

  • The child’s age
  • Their ability to adjust to a new community, including a new home and school
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and their parents and any siblings
  • Each parent’s wishes concerning custody
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The child’s overall wellbeing
  • The parents’ ability to maintain a solid relationship with one another
  • Whether there are any records of harassment or sexual violence by either of the parents
  • Each parent’s personal and work history and finances
  • Each parent’s willingness to put their child’s interest above their own
  • The child’s interests

Can a Child Decide To Live With One Parent?

A judge ruling on custody will take a child’s wishes into account when making their ruling. However, while a child around the age of 12 will often be provided with the opportunity to make a statement about which parent they will prefer to live with, older teenagers around 16 to 18 years old tend to have more influence with a judge when it comes to their custody.

Additionally, while the court will consider a child’s wishes, the judge will not make a ruling solely on them. These judges will examine each of the factors above, as well as any preference the child indicates, and try to come to a decision that is in the child’s best interests.

How Much Influence Does a Child’s Preference Carry in Colorado?

In Colorado, a child’s wishes regarding custody carry substantial weight. While there is no set age at which a judge must include a child’s wishes, when children are old enough to provide well-reasoned and independent preferences, the court will often accommodate their choice.

Before making any decisions, the court will take into account the circumstances of each case before making a final ruling. For instance, the judge will need to:

  • Assess whether a child is intelligent enough to articulate their custody preference
  • Determine how much weight to assign to the children’s viewpoint
  • Assess the child’s reasoning for why they want to stay with a parent

In some instances, the judge may appoint a therapist or child legal representative to help determine whether a child’s opinion is genuine and to make sure that neither parent is manipulating the child in any way. If the court finds that either parent’s actions are not in the best interest of the child, it is likely the court will not rule in favor of that parent.

Incorporating a Child’s Preferences Into Your Legal Strategy

Although child custody issues are decided by a judge who will try to rule in the best interests of a child, working with an experienced family law attorney can help show the judge that you are entitled to parental rights by preparing the strongest case on your behalf.

Working with these legal professionals can also:

  • Assist you in filing and submitting complicated documents to the appropriate parties.
  • Gather references to help your case and prepare witnesses for court.
  • Help you with your testimony and assist you in preparing for the challenging questions you may face from the judge.
  • Come up with a strategy on how to present your case.
  • Gather relevant evidence that can help your case.

An attorney may also be able to help you strategize how to help your child demonstrate that they are mature and responsible enough to make a clear-eyed decision regarding their own custody and living arrangements. On the other hand, if you feel that your coparent may be threatening, intimidating, or otherwise improperly influencing your child in an attempt to get them to indicate a preference to the court, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help you show the court why this concern merits investigation.

Does a Child Have To Be a Specific Age To Express Their Preferences When It Comes to Custody?

The State of Colorado does not set a specific age when considering a child’s custody preferences. Instead, the state’s laws indicate that the child should be “sufficiently mature” to provide a reasoned and independent choice. Children reach this level of maturity at a range of ages, and a court will take that variation among individuals into account. However, as a practical matter, the older a child is, the more weight the judge will likely give them when it comes to their opinion on which parent they want to live with and how much time they want to spend with the other parent.

Can a Child’s Preference Change a Custody Order in Colorado?

According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-129, a child must be in emotional or physical danger before the court will change a custody agreement. This means that even if a teenager wants to live with another parent, this is not enough to alter the child’s custody in Colorado. Instead, the child will need to provide proof of physical or significant emotional endangerment. If a child goes and lives with the other parent and there is no official custody agreement modification in place, it can put the parent in violation of the order.

At What Age Can a Child Refuse Parenting Time?

A child can refuse parenting time or a court-ordered visitation if they are mature and old enough, in the court’s estimation, to make this type of decision. Here as well the age will vary depending on the individual child, but on average this kind of refusal becomes viable at around 14 years of age. However, older children, or those around 16- or 17 years old, tend to have more input when it comes to parental visitation. For further information regarding parenting time in Colorado or want to better understand can a teenager choose which parent to live with, reach out to the family law attorneys at Colorado Divorce Law Group and speak with a member of our legal team.

Contact the Colorado Divorce Law Group and Go Over Your Child Custody Issues with an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you are looking for further information regarding custody issues or other Colorado family law questions, contact the Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers. Our experienced legal team can review your concerns and queries and help you better understand can a teenager choose which parent to live with after a divorce in Colorado.