At What Age in NC Can a Child Decide Which Parent To Live With?

Child custody decisions are some of the most contentious legal matters in the state. In many situations, both parents want to be awarded custody. However, it is up to the judge to make a fair and reasonable decision that aligns with the child’s best interests. But does the child have a say in the process? Let’s take a look at a few factors in these cases, including at what age in NC can a child decide which parent to live with.

Taking Into Account the Child’s Best Interest

When dealing with child custody cases in North Carolina, there are a few legal considerations. North Carolina family courts follow the “best interest” standard. What does that mean? In these cases, the judge evaluates a couple of factors to determine what arrangement would be most beneficial for the child. The child’s relationship with each parent, their home environment, and their physical and emotional needs are all taken into consideration. 

Children often have strong feelings about where they want to live and how they want to spend their time. They may want to live primarily with one parent or to have equal time with both parents. 

Along with that, some minor children might have preferences about which school they attend or what activities they participate in. Unfortunately, a child’s preferences may not always align with their best interests, especially if they are very young or have been influenced by a parent’s opinions. 

While children’s preferences are taken into account, they don’t have the final say. Judges will also consider the child’s age, maturity, and rationale behind their preference. Plus, the stability, safety, and parental capabilities of each need to be examined.

For that reason, North Carolina law doesn’t specify an age at which a child can independently decide which parent to live with. However, family court judges often weigh the child’s input alongside other factors.

Once a child turns 18 and becomes an adult, they can choose where to live without court intervention. Until then, the judge has the authority to determine custody arrangements. 

How Does the Judge Decide Custody Matters in North Carolina?

Some judges may choose to interview the child involved in the case. The judge will speak with the child without the presence of their parents or attorneys. The purpose of these interviews is to understand the child’s preferences, feelings, and perspectives about the situation. 

During the interview, the judge will ask the child questions about their relationship with each parent, their daily routine, physical and emotional needs, and any concerns they may have. 

However, keep in mind that not all judges choose to interview minors. In these cases, the judge may just consider reports from social workers, therapists, or other experts who have evaluated the child and provided recommendations to the court.

Let Us Assist With Your North Carolina Child Custody Case

At what age in NC can a child decide which parent to live with? North Carolina law does not explicitly specify an exact age. When it comes to child custody, a child’s input is taken into consideration, but it doesn’t necessarily override the judge’s decision. 

In North Carolina, their well-being is given priority over their preferences. This means that the judge will consider the child’s wishes, but the decision will be based on the child’s best interest. If you would like to learn more about the child custody process in North Carolina, please reach out to our team at Stephen E. Robertson Law Office. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for your case. Call us at 336-370-6760.