The Child’s Right to Choose in a North Carolina Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, you already know that this traumatic experience can be especially detrimental for your children. During this time, you might feel as though you are best-suited to support them and guide them forward as the primary custodial guardian. But what if your child does not feel the same way? What if they feel a greater sense of loyalty to your ex – even if you know for a fact that your former partner is a terrible parent? This situation is more common than you might think, especially when children are manipulated and coerced by parents to “take sides.” But wait a second… Can a child choose which parent they want to live with during a divorce in North Carolina?

This is a slightly complex question, and the answer depends on your unique circumstances and priorities. In order to gain a complete understanding of this situation, you will need to get in touch with a family law attorney in North Carolina. Our legal professionals can assess your situation during a consultation, and they will provide you with targeted, personalized legal advice. Not only can a divorce lawyer help you with matters related to child custody, but we can also assist you with alimony, child support, property division, and much more.

The Age of Majority in North Carolina

Technically speaking, a child has no authority to choose where they live until the age of 18. At this point, they reach the so-called “age of majority,” and the parent loses all control over the child. While it is true that the child can choose to live with either parent at this time, it is essentially a moot point since they are no longer technically a “child.”

When Do Judges Listen to Children?

While it is true that a child does not have full control over their living situation until they reach the age of 18, that does not mean judges will not listen to their wishes during the divorce proceedings. There is no clear rule regarding when judges start to take the desires of children seriously. However, most legal experts agree that the “magic number” is somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14. If the child is between these ages or older, a judge is likely to factor in their preferences when making their final decision. A 16-year-old is likely to be taken quite seriously by a judge when expressing their desires – provided they exhibit a sense of emotional and mental maturity while communicating in court.

How Does a Judge Communicate With a Child?

Judges often communicate directly with children when they are placed on the witness stand during a trial. This situation only ever occurs when the child is called to the stand by one of the parents. This can be an incredibly stressful experience for many children, and it is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, it can be highly beneficial for one parent if the child is able to express their desire to live with one specific parent in a thoughtful and mature manner.

When judges communicate with children on the witness stand, they may ask them a range of questions. They may ask them what it is like living with either parent, whether one parent is more enjoyable to be with, whether they are able to complete their homework while living at one particular home, and so on.

Do Not Force Your Child to Choose

Children do not like to be placed in the middle of a conflict, and they will often say things to placate both parents. This can lead to quite a shock when a child chooses mom over dad despite promising dad they wanted to live with him (or vice versa). Do not take your child’s words at face value. Instead, you might want to promise your child your unconditional love regardless of who they choose to live with. This will not only limit the stress of the situation for your child, but it will also help you show the court that you are a great parent.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today

If you have been searching for an experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Over the years, we have helped a number of spouses as they fought for their rights to maintain custody of their children. We know that losing access to your children can be an especially daunting prospect, and we are ready to assist you with this difficult situation. With our help, you can act in your child’s best interests and help them strive for a happy, healthy post-divorce life. Get in touch at your earliest convenience to get started with an effective action plan.