I often have calls from people who want to modify their custody schedule because they believe their child is “old enough to decide where he wants to live.” It is a very common misconception that there is a law in Missouri that states that a child can choose to live with Mom or Dad at a specific age. No such law exists.
In Missouri, custody determinations are made based upon the “best interests of the child.” The statute in Missouri also lists several factors that the Court must consider including:
1. Wishes of the child’s parents;
2. Needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
3. Interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, etc;
4. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
5. Child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school and community;
6. Mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
7. Intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
8. The wishes of the child as to the child’s custodian.
So even though your child’s wishes are taken into consideration, it is just one of many factors. In our experience, children older than 12 years old are more likely to be listened to than a younger child. However, the child’s wishes are not the deciding factor.