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Can My Teenager Decide Where He or She Wants to Live?

There is no magic age at which a child has the power to decide where he or she will live when parents are divorced or separated. While the court will take a child’s opinion into account when making a child custody determination, its decision still must be based on the best interest of the child, regardless of what the child wants. In order to modify a Georgia child custody order, there must be a material or substantial change in circumstances that justifies a change in the existing child custody order. The fact that a child who is 14 years of age or older wishes to live with one parent or the other cannot constitute a material or substantial change in circumstances more than once every two years.

Under current Georgia law, even if a child is over the age of 14, the judge still has the power to make the ultimate custody determination. Current Georgia law on a child aged 14 or older is that there is a presumption that the parent the child elects to live with is in the child’s best interest to live with.  However, that presumption can be overcome by demonstrating it is not in the child’s best interest.  It is not necessary to show that the parent the child chooses to live with is unfit to win such a case (although that will certainly win the case).  What is necessary is to present sufficient evidence to convince the judge that despite how adamant a child is to live with the other parent, that the custody election is simply not in the child’s best interest, even if the elected parent is competent.  These cases often become highly contested, and the attorney you retain does matter in these cases..

The judge will consider a number of factors in order to make a decision about what custody arrangement is in the best interest of a child. These factors can include:

  • Each parent’s home environment
  • Existing relationships between the child and siblings
  • Emotional connections between child and parent
  • Each parent’s history of substance abuse and criminal activity
  • Each parent’s history of abuse and neglect
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a child with food , clothing, and shelter
  • School and education is often a big factor in these types of cases.
  • The presence of parental alienation, or other evidence of issues with joint parenting, such as simply not putting the other parent’s name on school or medical forms can be very persuasive in these sort of cases.

The Shaw Law Firm LLC is dedicated to helping both mothers and fathers navigate through child custody modification proceedings, which can be complex. We know what evidence to present in support of custody modification petitions and how the court usually handles requests to change custody.

Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.