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At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With?

Child custody can be a difficult and extensive process for both parents and children. A child can often sense the tension between their parents, depending on the severity of the situation. And they usually do not have much say in what is going on, leading them feeling like outsiders. Once a child is 16 years old in Maryland, the court will consider the child’s preference. While it is not guaranteed that the judge will agree with them, it is important to note that at that age the judge will listen to and consider the requests of the child.

Petition to Alter Custody Arrangement

Once a child turns 16, if they are not happy with the current custody agreement, they can request for the court to modify custody. A petition to alter the custody agreement will have to be filled out by the child and filed. The most important questions that this document will ask of the child are the following:

• Since the most recent court order, circumstances have changed, and the order is no longer in the best interest of the child(ren) because

• State the changes that the child is requesting

It is important to know what to expect so that you can be prepared to fully explain your reasoning. Not only will you have to write down, you will also have to testify before the judge explaining your reasoning. This can take place in the court room or even outside the court room in the judge’s office, as testifying in a courtroom in front of the parents can be stressful and traumatizing for a teenager. Judges work hard with children to take precautions so that they will not have to endure even more stress than what follows a divorce. It is also possible that the judge appoints a guardian ad litem, which is an attorney for the child. The guardian ad litem would then submit a report explaining what is best for the child, including the child’s preference. The guardian ad litem is another option to minimize the stress for a child to testify, since they can testify on behalf of the child for their preference in court parent.

Determining Child Custody

When deciding custody, alongside the preference of the child, the judge considers the following factors:

• Each parent’s relationship with the child

• Each parent’s job and financial status

• Character and reputation of each parent

• Age, health, and gender of the child

• The willingness of the parents to share custody

• The primary care giver of the child

• Length of separation between the parent and child

• Psychological and physical fitness of each parent

• Prior custody agreements

• Prior abandonment

• Strongest ability to maintain family relationships