One of the statutory factors that the family court must consider in child custody cases is the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference. This addresses one of the most common questions that people ask about child custody: how old does the child need to be to decide where they live? The answer is 18. But… if they are old enough to express a reliable preference, their preference may be considered by the court. Many custody professionals use the adage, “Kids have a voice, but not a choice.”
If the child is, say, three, they are too young to express their feelings in a manner for the court to give serious consideration. But you try to tell an older teenager where to live, against their will, and the parents are likely to have more trouble than if they adhere to the child’s wishes.