How Old Must A Child Be To Have A Say In Where They Live Or Visit?

In New York State, a child’s preference on where they want to live MAY be one of factors that a Court can consider when awarding custody. Once a child turns 18 years of age, they have the absolute right to decide where they want to live, and the Court cannot overturn that decision. However, what about before a child turns 18 years of age, how old must a child be for the Court to consider their preference?

The general rule is that the older a child is, the more influence a child’s preference will have on where they live. Certainly, most Courts will state that once a child turns 16 years of age, their preference will be strongly considered. However, this is not an absolute rule, and a Court can decide that even a 16 or 17 year old’s preference is not to be followed or considered.

A child between the age of 13 and 16, will also have their preference seriously considered. Yet, there are many Courts that will discount a child between these ages. In general, a child who is younger than 13 years of age, will have less of a say on where they live.

It is important to note, that each situation is unique and that there is no rule that says that a child younger than 13 doesn’t get to decide where they live.

What happens if the court grants one parent custody and years later the child wants to live with the other parent? What was once in the best interest of an 8-year old child may not be what is best for the child when they are 16. In those situation, a parent can petition the Court to modify the custody arrangement and based on the now 16 year’s old preference, may take that into serious consideration. The court makes these decisions on a case by case basis, and ultimately, the verdict will be the living arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.

Child custody and visitation can be a very difficult road to navigate. David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office, P.C., have represented countless clients and helped them navigate child custody issue in their divorce or in their family court action.. If you are seeking a divorce or custody, contact David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office, P.C. David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office’s phone number is 631-239-1702, email at or visit our web site: The Badanes Law Office has offices in Northport and Uniondale.

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