Age Limitations in Child Custody
Is there a certain age when a child is allowed to decide which parent he/she would choose to live with in a divorce situation in the state of TN? I have been the primary caretaker of my three children and their father is now wanting to have custody of the children for one week out of each month. We tried ''joint custody'' when he moved out two years ago and it was highly detrimental to all persons involved. I don't care to relive that nightmare. My children are 17, 15 and 12.After that fiasco, he moved back in with us for approximately 9 months until I discovered that he was having yet another affair. He has been living elsewhere since mid-July 2004. Neither of my two older children want to live with their dad(they are very vocal about their opinions!)and my youngest is noncommunicative about the whole issue.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Age Limitations in Child Custody
Tenn. Code Ann. 36-6-106 requires the court to place weight on my preferences for where the child wants to live. The older the child becomes, the more weight the court has to give to the child's preferences. By age 14, the child's preferences should be the primary consideration for the court. I have seen in Anderson County that a 13-year old's preferences expressed in testimony at a custody hearing crucially affected the court's decision on where she would live.
The court's is supposed to make decisions that are in the "best interests of the child." Your 17 and 15 year old are clearly old enough to decide where they want to live, because they could be treated as adults if they committed a serious crime.
Once custody of the 17 and 15 year old is established, you could argue in court that the best interests of the 12 year old are to remain with his or her siblings and thus in your custody.
Michael A. S. Guth