I very often hear from people that they heard that a child can decide where they will live and with which parent when the child is 14 years old (or some other age). This is not true. My answer to the question “How old does my child need to be to decide with whom they live?” is always the same: 18 years old.
The wishes of the child are a factor in the Arizona legal decision making (custody) and parenting time statutes, but they are only one factor. The older and more mature the child, the more weight the child’s wishes will carry with the judge. However, they are still only one factor among many factors. Also, the judge must explore the reasons for the child’s wishes. The reasons may cause the child’s wishes to lose some or all weight. For example, if a 17-year-old child tells a Family Court Advisor that he wants to live with his dad because his dad lets him smoke pot, the judge may not just ignore the child’s wishes, but give weight to the opposite of what a child wants.
Therefore, Arizona Family Courts will consider a child’s wishes, and will give more weight to the child’s wishes depending on the age and maturity of the child, but the child does not get to “decide” where the child lives until the child reaches the age of majority.