Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Tennessee?

child with mom

If you are going through a custody battle in Tennessee, you may be wondering whether or not your child will have a say in which parent they would like to live with. Read on to learn more and reach out to our experienced Memphis, Tennessee child custody lawyer.

How old does a child have to be to weigh into child custody?

All states permit judges to evaluate the choice of a child in a custody case, as long as they see the child is adequately mature. You may have questions about when a child is considered to be mature in Tennessee. Note that most states do not set a certain age, however, in Tennessee, the court presumes children 12 and up are mature enough to form a preference worth examining.

How does a child’s opinion fit into custody determinations?

You will want to keep in mind that a judge never has to grant custody in accordance with a child’s wishes. Other factors, including each parent’s criminal history and relationship with the child, will always be taken into account.

Additionally, a judge attempts to assess whether a child’s preference for one parent is a result of influence or leniency by that parent, which would give the choice less validity from the court’s view.

For example, a 15-year-old may not be able to live with her mom as she hopes if proof demonstrates the mother lets her drive without a license. On the other hand, a 12-year-old with solid reasons for selecting a proper parent could have a powerful impact on a judge’s ruling.

How do children communicate these opinions?

In most cases, children do not speak about their choices in court because the environment can be emotional and frightening for them.

Rather, they generally express their wishes in conversation with the judge, a custody evaluator, or someone appointed by the court to represent their interests (like a guardian ad litem).

Discussions with the judge typically take place in the judge’s office and are thus understood as in-chambers or in-camera hearings. Generally, a court reporter and the child’s legal representative are present. In some cases, the parents’ attorneys are also permitted in but not the parents themselves.

A judge may ask the child directly who they would like to live with, while others only ask related questions like, “What do you do for fun with your dad?” In some states, both parents must consent before the child may speak with a judge. Reach out to our firm today if you have further questions regarding this process. Our skilled Memphis, Tennessee family law attorney is on your side.


If you require strong legal representation for matters of divorce and family law in Memphis or anywhere in Tennessee, contact Rice Law to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.