Steven J. Gaba - Rockville Family Law Attorney
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Can teens choose which parent they want to live with?

In any divorce proceeding in Rockville that involves children will automatically place the needs and interest of the kids above all else. While determining what those needs and interests may be might require that court officials speak with the children themselves, oftentimes they will be based primarily on the opinions of others. You, your ex-spouse, family counselors and other professionals may offer input, but ultimately what is in your kids' best interest is decided by the judge in your case. The reasoning behind is due to the court not wanting to ask your children to make the difficult choice of choosing you over your ex-spouse (or vice versa). 

The fact that your kids (especially young children) may be at a stage in their lives where they lack the understanding and maturity to make such a decision. Yet what happens when they do? A better question may be at what age does the state recognize a child as being ready to offer a valued opinion? 

Section 9-103 of the Code of Maryland says that when your child reaches the age of 16, they can decide with whom they want to live. Say that your ex-spouse has primary custody of your kids, yet your oldest is approaching the age of 16 and has expressed a desire to live with you. It is up to them to submit the petition to the court asking that your current custody agreement be amended. When this happens, a hearing is held in which your child is able to express their feelings and explain why they want the change. Even though they are able to communicate their desires with the court, it is still left up to the judge to approve the amendment. 

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