At What Age Can a Child Decide Who to Live With in Missouri?

Child custody matters are difficult for everyone involved. Parents may not be happy about sharing custody of their child, while children may have feelings about which parent they prefer. Regardless of the situation, courts aim to do what is best for children.

But can your child choose which parent they’d prefer to live with? In most cases, children cannot make that determination themselves, but their desires may play a role in the judge’s decision. 

How Missouri Handles Child Custody Determinations

Missouri follows the best interests of the child standard. Judges must consider several factors to make the best possible decision for children, including, but not limited to:

  • Each parent’s desires regarding child custody
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to take care of and provide for their child
  • The child’s individual relationship with each parent
  • The physical and mental health of the child and parents
  • History of domestic violence or abandonment, if any

Based on their findings, judges can decide what custody arrangement would work for the child and both parents. This includes determining whether both parents share physical and legal custody or one parent gets sole custody with the other getting visitation. 

Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With?

Every state’s laws are different regarding children’s preferences for custody matters. Missouri law does not specify when exactly a child’s desires are recognized. Generally, a child’s preference is just one factor that a court considers when deciding which parent they want to live with until they reach the age of 18.

However, this does not mean that a child’s wishes hold no weight at all. The child’s wishes are included among the many details judges consider in a custody matter.

Learning About a Child’s Custody Preferences

As a general rule, most judges like to keep children out of the courtroom whenever possible. Custody matters can be contentious, so it’s usually best not to expose children to that stressful environment. But, judges have several options to learn more about the child and their preferences.

Judges can interview the child in their chambers. This allows the judge to speak one-on-one with the child, understand their wishes, and why they feel the way they do.

The judge may also appoint a guardian ad litem, which serves as a voice for the child. The guardian interviews the child and other important individuals in their life, like parents, grandparents, and teachers, and presents their findings to the court. The child’s wishes can be made known to the court through the child’s guardian.

Similarly, the judge may appoint a custody evaluator. The evaluator meets with the child and other parties and compiles their findings in a report for the court. The evaluator can also provide recommendations based on the information they obtain and observations. 

Seeking Legal Help for Your Child Custody Matter

When you’re going through a custody case, you want the best for your child. Therefore, you should not hesitate to seek guidance from a child custody attorney. A skilled lawyer can represent you in hopes of reaching the best possible result for everyone involved. 



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