When Can A Child Choose Which Parent To Live With

I_want_youYour child gets to pick the parent they live with in Michigan when they reach the age of 18. That’s when they are considered legal adults and no longer under the jurisdiction of the family law court. Think about it and it will make sense. Your child is not allowed to pick the school they go to, what doctor they see, or what they have for dinner but now they get to pick who has custody? That would cause chaos. As soon as Mom took away their ipod or grounded them, the kid would snap their fingers and declare that Dad now has custody.

In determining child custody in Michigan, the court must consider twelve best interest factors.  One of the factors is factor (i) which is reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference. It doesn’t have a specific age. It is really up to the judge.  Even if the judge considers the child’s preference, that choice does not determine the outcome.

Typically when it is appropriate to listen to a child, the judge will meet with the child in chambers for a private meeting. This is sometimes called an in camera interview. The judge doesn’t typically take testimony. On other occasions, the judge may have the Friend of the Court do the interview. The interviews in Wayne County, Michigan can be done by the Referee or the Family Counseling Unit. Every judge has their own procedures. It is the very rare case where a child actually takes the witness stand.

Quick practice pointer: Do not bring your child to speak to the judge unless you are specifically told to do so by the court. Every once in a while, a parent brings a kid to court because they feel they should have a voice in the matter. Do not do it. It makes the parent look irresponsible and manipulative. I don’t care how mature you think your child is. It’s a really bad idea.

Here are some ages that have some significance under Michigan law for minors. While none of these apply in custody or parenting time issues,  it’s possible these feed the confusion.

  • A minor can nominate a guardian at the age of 14.
  • A child can go to court to ask a judge for an order emancipating them from their parents at the age of 16.
  • A 17 year old will be prosecuted as an adult if charged with a crime.
  • Over 14 years of age, a child cannot be adopted unless they consent.
  • A 16 year old may ask for a parental consent waiver for an abortion.
  • A 16  year old may also drop out of school.

Ready to talk? Contact us and set up an appointment. Give us a call  at  313-291-0240.

Chris McAvoy is a Taylor, Michigan family law attorney who helps people with bankruptcy,  family law,  and  estate  planning.  To find out more or set  up an  appointment, click here   for  contact info. Our attorneys help  people in Taylor, Allen Park,  Southgate,  Lincoln  Park, Riverview, Trenton, Flat  Rock,  Wyandotte, Brownstown,  Belleville,  Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and  the  Downriver,  Michigan  area.




About Christopher McAvoy

I've been a lawyer since 1997 and I've seen a lot. We should talk. Not only do I have a lot of the answers, I will share them with you so you can make up your own mind. Chris McAvoy is a Taylor, Michigan attorney who helps people with bankruptcy, family law, and estate planning. To find out more or set up an appointment, click here for contact info. Our attorneys help people in Taylor, Allen Park, Southgate, Lincoln Park, Riverview, Trenton, Flat Rock, Wyandotte, Brownstown, Belleville, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and the Downriver, Michigan area.


  1. Hello-
    My brother has a PPO against him by his wife. It is all lies.
    His lawyer has told him that the judge, Judge Noe will not ever overturn a PPO. Ever, for any reason.
    My brother wants to fight it and have it dropped, amended or whatever.
    I feel that a judge needs to be objective and judge each case on its own.
    What is your feeling ?
    Thank you.

  2. Hello,
    I am almost 17 years old and my parents are divorced. My father lives a good 45 minutes away from my mothers. Where my mother lives I also go to school and work. My parents custody time is split in the middle of the week and it is becoming harder for me to go to my fathers house. I was wondering, at what age would I be able to decide which house I stay at?

    • You can decide when you turn 18. Talk to your parents and see if they can work together to come up with a better schedule for you. Just be honest with them and explain how hard it is for you. Good luck.

  3. concerned parent says:

    Hello I am in concern for my stepson he is almost 17 and he has been wanting to live with myself and his father … Not because he don’t like his mom or her girlfriend but because he needs his dad… He has been asking for over 5 years now… An his mom keeps telling him that he can’t choose.. I honestly believe the boy needs his dad in his life not two woman .. He is at the age where he needs that MALE figure… What can I do to help him???? If he can choose to quit school at 16 why can’t he choose to live with us… ??? I was 12 when i chose to live with my dad…

  4. Hello my name is jodi and I for about two years have wanted to live with my father. however my mother doesn’t want me to she WILL NOT let me i have already asked her and sat down with her and told her why. My dad about a year ago got a lawyer and payed for him to get my mom somehow to say yes or go to court and fight for me. I was wondering which u say 18 well….. i know when i turn 18 I am an adult and will not be living with my mom or my dad so is there anyway that i could choose at age 13 to live with my dad before I turn 18?

  5. I will be turning 16 soon and have been wanting to move to my dad’s since I was 9 or 10. I have logical reason and other states accept minors to have a choice. My father lives 18 hours away and I see him once a year…

  6. I have custody of my 12 year old son, but he spends 2 nights a week at his fathers during the school year, and we do week on/week off in the summer. He has 2 step siblings over there ages 16 & 12 whom he doesn’t get along with and a stepmom who he claims doesn’t treat him like the other children. Dad works out of town most of the time and my son is left with stepmom and the boys. Recently my son has strongly expressed his desire not to go to his fathers unless his father is home. This past weekend, even refusing to go. Is there any legal action I could take on this matter?

  7. My son is thirteen, he will be 14 on the 29th of this mouth. I’m in the process of getting my own place so that he can come home with me. His God mother is trying to keep him from me. He wants to be back with me as much as I want him to be with me. Can he choose after he is 14 years old in Michigan?

    • He can chose when he is 18 and a legal adult. Prior to that, the preference of a child is but one of the twelve best interest factors. As always, see a lawyer and don’t rely on a quick answer from a website.

  8. Mandy Morey says:

    What is the point is allowing people to comment if you can’t answer their questions? So I will save time and instead of ask I will answer myself “even though I’m a lawyer I can’t actually give you legal advice”, thanks!!!!

    • Sorry you are frustrated but you are not entitled to an answer just because you want one. Would you ask for medical advice on WebMD.com and not see a doctor if you were sick? Of course not. Same is true here. I don’t give legal advice over a website forum board, just general information. A website is an advertisement to offer legal services to individuals not the creation of an attorney-client relationship.

  9. Jazzmine Foster says:

    I want to know why the age is 14 to pick where to live with divorced parents.? Like what if your 12 and want to live with your dad but u cant chose because you don’t have legal rights because your under age. Considering what people go threw in life. The age should at least drop down to 11- 12 years old. Right?

    • The right to pick which parent you live with is 18 and not 14. And, as a parent, I don’t agree that a 12 year old should get to pick who they live with. Sorry.

      • I don’t agree with you on that. So if a kids not happy living with there mom or dad they should have a right to choose who they want to live with why make a kid live with a parent that they don’t want to live with? Let’s say there 13 and want to live with there dad for the next 5 years ? With that attitude I would never hire you to fight for my kids!

        • It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with me. It’s the law. See MCL 722.23(i) which indicates the reasonable preference of the child is but one of twelve factors the court is to consider. You should consider hiring a lawyer that knows the law and not one that tells you what you want to hear.

  10. susan berry says:

    I have a question? Is there grandparents laws in Michigan and who do I contact to speak with someone about them?

Speak Your Mind