Can Children Choose Which Parent to Live With in South Carolina?

At the David W. Martin Law Group, our divorce and child custody attorneys in Rock Hill and Fort Mill understand that one of our client’s greatest fears when dissolving their marriages is losing the time they spend with their children.

That thought can become even more stressful during the transitional period, when the most important aspect of the separation is the children’s best interests.

The South Carolina family courts fully expect both parents to remain involved in their kids’ lives — barring any neglectful, abusive, or dangerous circumstances — acting as both loving and authority figures to maintain each parent-child relationship as much as possible.

With that goal in mind, our York County child custody lawyers are often asked if their children can choose which parent they want to live with, and if so, can they testify in court to support that decision.

The answer is, much like it is with most family law matters, it depends.

In some cases, a child’s preference may be relevant to both their unique family dynamics and their best interests. In most of those cases, the older the child is, the more likely a judge may be to consider their opinion.

Here is what you need to know about our South Carolina courts, and how they view children making decisions about their futures.

How Old is Old Enough for a Child to Choose Where to Live After a South Carolina Divorce?

Our child custody attorneys in Rock Hill and Fort Mill, South Carolina have represented both mothers and fathers during divorces, and know how the court values both parents remaining involved in the children’s lives.

We have also heard many of our clients explain just how much their children want to live with them, and what bearing that has on the court’s decision.

While there is no precise age in which the child can choose, South Carolina family court judges are likely to give more weight to an older child’s preference based on his or her maturity, judgment, and ability to make reasonable decisions.

That includes:

  • Children Ages 12 Years Old and Under

No South Carolina cases are indicating — or have indicated — that the family court will give great weight to the wishes of a child under the age of 12.

However, if the child’s life experiences and maturity far exceed their young ages, their opinion may be taken under advisement.

  • Children Ages 12 to 14 Years Old

Between the ages of 12 and 14, the judge may begin to consider a child’s opinion while noting the age and maturity of the child may provide a reasonable reflection of the case, and that the preference was determined to be in their best interests.

  • Children Ages of 14 and Over

Our South Carolina family courts begin to give more weight to the child’s preference beginning at age 14, and especially in cases where the child is 16 or older.

Can a Child Testify in Family Court in South Carolina Regarding Custody Decisions?

In South Carolina, our family court judges do not like to see children endure the emotional and psychological pain of testifying during their parents’ divorce proceedings.

If the child’s opinion must be weighed, a guardian ad litem will be assigned to investigate the child’s best interests – directly from their perspective – and report back to the court to speak on child’s behalf.

The judge will then use the Guardian’s report along with the other evidence in the case to decide what is in the child’s best interests.

If you are concerned about how your divorce will affect the custody of your children, contact our experienced family law attorneys in Rock Hill and Fort Mill to schedule a consultation today by calling (803) 548-2468 or contact us online and one of our experienced child custody attorneys will contact you directly.

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