Question: How old does a child have to be to decide where and with which parent they want to live?
I do not practice in West Virginia. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of West Virginia. With that being said, there may be a specific statute in your State that provides for an age when a child may determine or provide input as to 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 the best interests of the child.
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. Usually by 12 years old a child can testify. As the child gets older, his or 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 the child has to have a logical reason for changing the present support and placement.
You should contact an attorney licensed in West Virginia to inquire as to whether a statute defines when a child can decide and the standard the courts apply in determining custody and placement.
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.