Custody/Kids decision?

NC does not have an age when children can decide which parent they live with. However, the courts do put more weight on a teenagers wishes than a child’s. It’s difficult to force a teenager to do anything. The minor would have to be able to voice valid reasons for wanting to live with one parent over the other. Dad makes me clean my room or mom won’t let me watch this on TV are not valid excuses…

My suggestion is that you sit down with your child and have your own heart to heart. Let her know that while she will always have a home with you, once she makes this decision there will be no back and forth unless it’s a drastic reason…It’s a good idea to let a teenager have some say in this decision. Let her know that you love her and are there for her and see what decision she makes on her own, without either of you influencing her. Make it a trial change for 3-4 months and see how it works out.
Once you have the answer, talk to her and dad together. Show her that you and he agree that this is a trial and that the only way it will become permanent, if she even wants this, is to thrive. Grades stay average (where they are now), no trouble at school, no trouble with friends…visitations are set. No changing them…things like this. Just some suggestions…

I recommend that you get this worked out now while your tempers are relatively cool. The longer this problem drags on, the more personal ego will take over. Adult pride gets in the way of doing what is best for the child.

Children, including teens, are fickle. Young teens are notorious for playing divorced parents against each other. It is not uncommon for a teen to get mad at one parent and announce that she wants to go live with the other parent. This emboldens one parent, in this case your husband, and instills fear and panic in the other - you. When you try to work this out in an emotionally disturbed state, you make bad decisions. You are wise to seek counsel from others who are not personally involved in the matter.

I assume that since you are sharing 50/50 custody that you both find the other partner an acceptable parent… no issues of child abuse or neglect, etc. If that is the case, then here is some advice:

  1. Take a deep breath… nothing is going to happen quickly. Don’t obsess over this. Exercise, eat well, read some non-custody related books, pray and take it easy. If you aren’t healthy mentally then you will say or do stupid things.

  2. Talk to your STBX directly. Some attorneys will encourage you to do all your negotiating through them… naturally, they will charge you for every second of their involvement. Hopefully your ex wasn’t taken by surprise with the child support papers. Hopefully you had already talked with him about your financial concerns and didn’t just hit him out of nowhere. If you did, then his anger at you is probably justified. You are both adults. Work this money matter out.

  3. One point of discussion can be for both of you to use the child support calculator on the main page of and see where things stand. If you are demanding a lot more than the calculator estimates you should get, then you need to compromise. The same goes for him.

  4. Don’t assume that he is suddenly trying to get full custody of your daughter because you are asking for more money. That is such an offensive position taken by too many women. Most men DO want more time with their children and are very willing to provide for their financial needs. Most men are not “deadbeat” dads trying to evade child support. Give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wants what is best for your child, just like you do.

  5. Realize that if you two have had a 50/50 time sharing split so far and your daughter is willing to state to the judge that she wants to live with dad, then it is, at the very least, POSSIBLE that you could end up in the position that most fathers are in: insufficient visitation privileges and a court order to pay the other parent child support. I hope you are thinking through that. YOU could end up being the one paying child support to the other parent in the end.

You can talk you your STBX directly and honestly about your financial concerns. Tell him honestly WHY you need more financial help for your daughter. Brainstorm with him ways to address her needs. Let him feel like he is a part of the solution. He might be very willing to pay more child support if he sees a genuine need. But if your approach is to go straight for the jugular or if you use surprise tactics then you can expect that he will respond to you the same way.

I add my support to the suggestions that stepmother gave to you. You need to have a straight talk with your daughter. You also need to decide that even if your STBX tries to use her as a chess piece in a custody match against you, that you won’t respond in kind. Don’t ever let yourself start using your child as a tool for vengence because she will be the one who gets hurt the most.

I think you are a bright and reasonable person - evidenced partly by your willingness to share custody with your husband. Shared parenting is almost always in the best interest of the child.

There is no age where the court will allow a child to decide who to live with, however the older the child is the more weight a judge will give a child’s wishes.

P.S. Please feel free to bring up this or any other topic on our live call-in show every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. EST. Visit for details

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax

Charlotte Office
301 McCullough Drive
Suite 510
Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
Main Fax: (704) 9343.0044

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1829 East Franklin Street
Building 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 321.0780


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Hello, STBX received papers requesting child support(we share custody 50/50). Furious, he claimed he’s had a conversation w/ our 14 year old daughter & point blank asked her if given the chance, who would she rather live w/. He lives closer to school/friends, etc., but the distance from my home to her school, activities, etc., is a non-issue - she gets where she needs to be. He said that at 14 she can decide w/ whom she prefers to live. I realize he’d need a custody order to even make the request, but can a child decide? If that were the case, kids would bounce back/forth at will should he/she get mad w/ one parent or the other. It doesn’t make sense but I just needed to hear it. Thanks in advance!