At What Age in Virginia Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With? 

At What Age in Virginia Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With? 

Determining child custody is often one of the most contentious issues for divorcing couples. Many parents wonder whether, at a certain point, their child will reach a legal age when they can decide which parent they want to live with. However, there is no statutory age that permits a child to make this choice. As long as a child is under 18, Virginia courts always have the final say when it comes to which parent will have custody. 

Is the Child’s Preference a Factor in Child Custody Decisions?

According to the Code of Virginia § 20-124.3.8, courts can consider the child’s preference for which parent to live with if it is deemed reasonable and if the child is of reasonable understanding, intelligence, age, and experience. A court will make such determinations on a case-by-case basis. 

In practice, courts consider most children aged 14 years or older capable of expressing such a preference. However, children with certain special needs might not be deemed capable of doing so even if they are beyond that age. Other children who are younger than 14 might be deemed qualified to express a preference due to a demonstration of advanced intelligence and understanding. 

What Other Factors Do Virginia Courts Consider?

While a child’s preference is one factor Virginia courts may consider in child custody cases, it is not the sole determining factor. The overarching principle courts follow is the “best interests of the child” standard. This involves evaluating numerous factors, including:

  • The age, mental condition, and physical health of the child and parents
  • The relationship existing between each parent and the child
  • The emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the child
  • The role each parent has played in the upbringing and care of the child
  • The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent
  • Any history of family abuse or sexual abuse

Courts aim to craft physical custody arrangements that facilitate a child’s overall well-being, happiness, and healthy development. The child’s preference is just one consideration among many in legal custody cases.

How Can a Family Lawyer Help?

Child custody disputes can be incredibly complex and emotionally charged. An experienced family lawyer can provide valuable guidance and advocacy throughout this process. Some key ways a skilled family attorney in Virginia can help include:

  • Ensuring your parental rights are protected, and your child’s best interests are prioritized
  • Gathering and presenting evidence to support your case for custody or visitation
  • Advising you on Virginia child custody laws and court procedures
  • Negotiating and drafting fair custody agreements and parenting plans
  • Representing you skillfully in court if litigation becomes necessary
  • Modifying custody orders when situations substantially change
  • Enforcing custody orders if the other parent violates them

With so much at stake, having a knowledgeable family law attorney in your corner can make a significant difference. 

Contact Buczek Carpenter, PC

At Buczek Carpenter, PC, we understand how vital it is for parents to protect the best interests of their children. Our experienced Virginia custody attorneys have been fighting on behalf of families for over a decade, and we are ready to stand up for your rights.

Call or contact us online for a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you.