Georgia Divorce Issues: When can a child decide?
A question that comes up frequently in a divorce with children is, “when can a child decide which parent they want to live with?” Georgia law states that when a child reaches the age of 14 they have the right to decide which parent they would like to live with. However this decision is not binding to a judge. If the judge feels that the parent chosen would not be in the best interest of the child, the judge will essentially overrule the child’s wishes.
After a divorce a child over 14 can, through the parent seeking custody, ask the court to modify a custody order giving custody to the requesting parent. Under the right circumstances this change in selection may be sufficient to meet the statutory requirements.
A child age 11 to 13 can make their opinion known to the court, but the judge is guided by the child’s desires but also the educational needs of the child. The judge in these situations has complete discretion in making their decision and may or may not give weight to the child’s specific wishes. A judge’s is guided in these matters by the legal standard known as “the best interest of the child”.
As to a post-divorce change in custody, an 11 to 13 year old change in parent selection will not meet the statutory requirements to change custody.
Georgia statutes do not mention the any rights to children younger than 11. Generally speaking a child under the age of 11 will not have his wishes given any weight by the court.