Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Does the age of my child determine a custody decision?

Question: My 16-year-old daughter no longer wants to visit with her father. Can she just tell him she does not want to come back, and do that with no recourse? We share joint legal and physical custody. My daughter will be 17 in 30 days; will that change anything?



Answer: I do not practice in Missouri.  Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of Missouri.  With that said, there may be a specific statute in your State that provides for an age for a child to determine or provide impute into the custody decision. When there is a custody dispute in my State, the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem regardless of the age of the minor child, to determine what the best interests of the child are as to custody and placement.  Generally, a child can testify when they are of sufficient maturity to understand and take the oath to testify truthfully. 

However, the child’s wishes are only one factor in my jurisdiction that the Guardian ad Litem and Judge use to determine the best interest of the child and the custody arrangements. Usually by 12 years old a child can testify.  As the child gets older, her wishes carry more weight. By 15 or 16 if the child is of general maturity and has logical reasons for changing the custody, the court will often abide by the child’s wishes.  The key is that she has to have a logical reason for changing the present support and placement. 

You should contact an attorney licensed in Missouri to inquire as to whether a statue defines when a child can decide and the standard the courts apply in determining custody and placement.  Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed to practice in Missouri who would be happy to help.


Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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3 comments on “Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Does the age of my child determine a custody decision?

    Hi im 16 and i actually want to live with my dad. Reason why i want to because my mom married another person(stepdad currently).
    I tried getting use to him but i cant. He always talks about my dad on how he never do anything(plus thats not even true and im a really emotional person but don’t like to show it) if i dont like his rules he say go live with your dad or he just go straight to my mom and complain to her like a child. He gets mad over the simple stuff and sooner or later im just going to get to tired of him im have to do something really bad to him that i wont regret.
    So can somebody please respond.

    my 15 yo is now living with me. He and his mother constantly fight and her parenting although sound lacks love and compassion
    I have ALWAYS Been in my sons life from birth.
    His mother had told him ” go live with your dad”
    Not smart
    Of course my open arms are there
    I’ve encouraged mom to talk with him but her response was no your the parent you should make him
    This is the second time she’s done this
    She’s tKing me to court
    Had a court date and Judge set pre trial date also the judge granted me Temp Custody of him and she can see him every other weekend
    My sons court appointed Atourney suggested to the court that his mother is to hostile and it is in the best interest of the child to be with Dad. I’m sad for her because I have compassion but she won’t listen. I’m going thru with this for my son
    I feel bad but it is in his best interest for now anyway
    I don’t think she’s has a shot because I’m a good dad and we live int he same school district!
    I told her I would ask for child support if she stopped but she refused
    I can’t see how I wont be granted custody
    My son is smart good grades and quite mature for his age
    Do you think I could possibly lose
    Do I even need a lawyer??
    If I have to pay thousands of dollars guess who’s paying chd support!!!

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