CAN THE CHILDREN CHOOSE WHERE THEY WANT TO LIVE IN GEORGIA?

The short answer is yes if they are 14 years old; however, the issue is a bit more complex than this.  In Georgia a child at 14 once was able to make a final determination regarding a custody decision.  Today a child at 14 can still make this determination, but the court will still look at the best interest of the child. Usually this is not an issue unless the parent the child chooses to live with has some significant problem that would cause the court concern in placing the child in that home or the placement is so detrimental to the other parent that it would be inequitable.  A situation such as this can arise when one parent is making or has made a dramatic move out of state which will essentially rob the remaining parent of their time with his or her child.  Often I have had the court reject the child’s election in this situation.

The issue becomes even more clouded between the ages of 11 and 14.  In Georgia the statute of election allows children in this age to make an election after considering the best interest of the child but if the child is under 14 the court will not consider this election as a material change of circumstance.  What this means is that if you seek to modify a custodial arrangement, and the matter will be contentious, then you cannot bring this modification merely on the grounds that the child desires to live with you at this time.   If there are other factors, such as lack of care or strangers in the home with this election then a modification may be the proper action in this scenario.

If there is a custodial dispute through divorce or modification and a guardian ad litem is involved the guardian ad litem will listen to the desires of the children.  Sometimes during a contentious custody dispute you can ask the judge to interview the children.  Most judges defer to the guardian, but it is another way to have an under aged child’s desires heard.

 

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