At What Age Does a Child Get to Choose Which Parent to Live With?

Child custody is a difficult subject to discuss because of the emotional toll it takes all those involved. I understand how stressful this custody process can be, especially in Ohio. According to a study conducted by CustodyXChange, divorced fathers in Ohio get to see their children only 23.7% of the time on average, which is among the lowest percentage of any state. No matter if you are a mother or a father, it’s important to understand the considerations that go into child custody agreements—including whether a child can determine which parent they want to live with.

However, to understand the answer to this question, it is important to look at the larger picture when it comes to custody in Ohio. You’ll need to understand what exactly happens in Ohio when there is a custody proceeding. 

Child Custody in Ohio

If you live in Columbus or throughout central Ohio, and you are facing a potential custody dispute, then you may wonder what the laws and procedures are that you will need to follow. 

It is first important to note that custody can be settled without the intervention of a judge. If the two parents can come to a conclusion on their own, then a trial is not necessary. 

However, when there is a dispute, a judge will need to intervene. In Ohio, a judge is not technically assigning custody. Rather, the judge is dividing the time each parent can spend with the child and will declare the rights of each parent concerning decisions made on the child’s behalf. 

There are two main forms of custody in Ohio: “sole” custody and “joint” custody. Taking a look at each one is beneficial to understand what your outcome could be. 

  • Sole Custody - One parent gets most of the responsibility of caring for the child.  A parent having sole custody is responsible for making all the decisions regarding the child and is generally given the majority of the parenting time with the child.   
  • Joint Custody -  Both parents have equal rights with their children, and the parties share in decision-making regarding the children. 

Joint custody does not mean the child will split their time 50/50 between both parents. In fact, this time is often not split in half; the percentage of time that the child spends with each co-parent is determined by the court based on a number of factors.

How Is Custody Determined?

Several factors go into a judge’s determination of the custody of a child in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio laws stipulate that what is best for the child must be considered. 

A judge will determine what is best for the child in question by looking at certain elements that pertain to the particular case. This can include:

  • The relationship between each parent and the child in question
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The child’s age
  • The child’s wishes
  • The history of the family, which can include violence or abuse (if applicable) 

These are just some of the factors a judge will consider. Using this information, child custody is determined by the judge. 

The Child’s Preference

So, this brings us to whether the child’s preference matters during a custody dispute. At what age can a child choose which parent to live with? There is no straight answer, unfortunately. 

A child’s preference is taken into account, but it is not the main factor. It is one factor among many. In fact, the child’s preference is rarely a deciding factor. 

A child cannot choose which parent they can live with. This is up to the discretion of the Columbus, Ohio court system. While a child may prefer one parent over the other, the judge will decide what is the most beneficial for the child in question. 

However, a child may decide they do not want to visit a certain parent before they turn 18. Visitations cannot be forced, though a residential parent is prohibited from stopping them. The child may wish to not attend a visitation, which is within their rights. 

Family Law Experience You Can Trust

You want to make sure you are doing everything you can for your child. Custody trials can be overwhelming, and it is important to reach out to a family law attorney who will help you every step of the way. 

Here at Heckert & Moreland Co., LPA, we know how difficult this time can be. Mr. Heckert and Mr. Moreland have over twenty and twenty-five years of experience, respectively, and are willing to stand up for your rights and advocate for your family. 

Our extensive knowledge in matters of family law and custody trials in Ohio is vital to ensuring you and your child can move forward with confidence. Set up a consultation with Heckert & Moreland Co., LPA, today to see what we can do for you.


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