Choosing Parent to live with after Custody is established

Here is my question and my 12 yr old son and 11 yr old daughter’s as well… My ex husband and I share joint custody of our three children, with him having primary custody. His lawyer was the judges campaign manager and my lawyer was the judges running mate prior to our case being heard. Since I found out after the fact, I was not able to get a different judge to hear our case, henceforth he was awarded primary. My two oldest children have wanted to live with me since the beginning, and now that they are getting older, the want is even more. I have been told that in NC, when a child reaches the age of 13, they can just choose not to go “home” to the parent with primary. My son and daughter want to do this very badly, but I am fearful of consequences that may entail. However, if this is legal and doable, I am all for it, especially since the money to hire a lawyer again is too great for me to afford. So, my question and theirs is, can they make this decision at 13 or any other age besides 18?

Yes, a judge can consider their opinions.The judge can take a child’s view point into account if the judge determines the child is mature enough to express such an opinion and that such an opinion would be valuable to his or her determination of custody. There is no set age for this, though it is certainly the case that the older the child is, the more weight their opinion is likely to be given by the court.


You state the child’s wishes can be heard when the Court determines the child is of reasonable maturity. I know that the child’s wishes may not be honored if the Court determines it is not in their best interest, but you didn’t answer whether it was “legal” for the child to decide not to return to the custodial parent’s home and I’m curious what the answer to this is.

Truthfully, at some point, you can’t really make a teenager stay or go if they are adamant. How does the Court typically handle this situation?

Children do not get to make these decisions. These are parental decisions. In the event that a child refuses to go on a visit and if a parent files a motion seeking to have the other parent held in contempt the court will evaluate the parent’s role in the failure to visit. In that situation, things get murky and judges often have difficulty determining whether the custodial parent has willfully violated the court’s order.

The only time you should defy a court order or violate an agreement regarding visitation or custody is if you, the parent, feel that the child is in actual danger with the other parent. You can still have to go to court over contempt, but you would need to explain to the judge (and present as much proof as possible) why you felt justified in violating the order due to real safety concerns.