At what age can a child decide custody/parenting time?

This is a trick question.  There is no age at which a child can make these decisions, until he/she turns 18 and the court no longer has jurisdiction over them.

There are, however, a few methods by which a child can have input in the process. 1. An attorney can be appointed for the child. If the child is old enough, the attorney can advocate for the child’s wishes; 2. If there is a custody evaluation, the child will be interviewed and the evaluator may take the child’s views into account; 3. The child can testify in court. I never have children testify and am opposed to it. Judges do not want children to be involved in the process and it is generally thought that the less a child can be involved in the process, the better. That being said, an attorney can help a parent to advocate for their child’s wishes.

About Daniel Margolin

Daniel Margolin is a founding partner of Stephens & Margolin LLP and a Portland, Oregon native. His practice focuses on all aspects of family law litigation. Dan applies his litigation expertise to provide additional expertise when assisting clients with Family Law Appeals and Collaborative Divorce matters. To find out more or contact Daniel Margolin, visit Stephens & Margolin LLP
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65 Responses to At what age can a child decide custody/parenting time?

  1. renee says:

    I have temporary custody of my two nieces and nephew from CPS in Texas. my oldest niece will be 13 in January and wants to live with us. she is a good child, her parents have anger issues drug issues. they are beginning the counseling now after four months of living with me. my oldest niece has told te counselor case worker and her mom that she never wants to return home. do my husband and I have a good change of gaining custody through vetting a lawyer and going to court?

  2. Stephens Margolin says:


    Are you in Oregon?

  3. Crystal says:

    My fiancé and I are in need of help! My fiancé has 3 wonderful little girls from a previous marriage. For the last 4 years we have been together, we have had split custody of the girls. Their mother lives in California, and has them partially during the school year. Meaning we bring them here to oregon every break they get. Christmas/New Years, Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Summer Vacation Etc.
    You get the idea. Recently their mother has taken a turn for the worst, and is on a downward spiral. She has gotten multiple DUI’s with the children in the car. The principal of one of the schools even called CPS because the girls’s mother was noticeably intoxicated. Her last incident involved her being intoxicated with the children in the car, and when she was pulled over, she threatened her own life screaming about how she was gonna blow her head off in front of the children.
    All in all we wish the best for her. As she is in rehab now. But now she has relinquished custody of the children to her parents. Unbenounced to us. Now we want to bring them back to oregon, with their father and the home they grew up in. But the state of California insists that we must jump through all these hoops to get our children back. I don’t understand why we are being punished when their mother is the one who obviously has the problems. We have no previous records or anything bad to do with the children. We love them and only want them to be in a stable home while their mother gets on the right track.
    Is their any info you can give me to help, as of now we feel our only option is to get a lawyer. I refuse to get UA’s weekly and be treated like a criminal to get custody of the children.
    Sincerely, Crustal

  4. Chris G says:

    Curently we have a parenting plan saying i have visitation of one day per week, every other weekend and splitting summers and holidays with my ex. Well my kids are fourteen and twelve. My eldest has had problems each time they are with my ex and expresses want to live with me each week and is showing signs of depression before returning to my exs house. I dont have any more money to go back to court what are my childrens rights? What do I do if theyone day just refuse to get in car to go back for the court ordered parenting time with my ex?

  5. lisa says:

    My 16 year old son wishes to live with me full time. His father and I have joint custody 50/50 since 2003. Our son has had difficulties with both his father and stepmom (since 2004) since he was 8 years old. When he turned 15 the problems and control issues have intensified. He has told his father he wants to live with my husband and me for the summer and come over to visit them and his half brother and sister often. He has been with us since the beginning of June. He attempted to visit his siblings and was told that it would be confusing for the kids and that he was the one who chose not to
    Live with them. We are not interested in a custody battle but would like his wishes to live with us honored.

    live with the

  6. Stephens Margolin says:


    Consistency is usually good for kids, and the court offers two temporary remedies to protect against sudden changes in parenting plans. The first is the “Temporary PRotective Order of Restraint”, which freezes a child’s usual place of residence and routine prior to a final judgment being entered. The second is a post-judgment “status quo order”, which can be used to lock in a parenting schedule as practiced, even if the practice is different than the previous court order. I previously blogged in more detail about both in this post: Can I move out with the kids? The “Temporary Protective Order of Restraint” and “Status Quo Order”. Read the post, and talk to our firm or a local lawyer about what you can do to help your son.

    Sean Stephens

  7. sharon pineda says:

    my grandson is 10 and wants to live with me what age can he decide to do this and as a grandmother what rights do i have

  8. cassandra holmes says:

    My Fiance has a daughter that he has not been allowed to see almost her whole life she is now 13 years old and has contacted us and now wants her father to fight for custody she states she is not treated fairly in her home with her mother, step father and two half siblings. She is in California and we are in Oregon. How do we go about filing for custody when he hasnt really had much contact with her for most of her life and he has a few members of the daughter moms family on his side stating the girl is better off with her father. What steps should we take?

  9. Stephens Margolin says:


    There is a lot of misinformation on the web about at what age children can decide where to live. The correct answer is when they become adults at the age of 18. Many times kids have a voice in litigation through speaking to a custody evaluator or a counselor, but they do not get the final vote in deciding where they live.

    To answer your question about what rights you have, third parties (including grandparents) do have rights to visit with or obtain custody of children if they can meet certain statutory tests. I previously blogged on this topic in the following two posts:

    Can I Get Custody Of My Grandchildren? Oregon’s Third Party Custody Statute

    Do I Have The Right To Visit My Grandchildren? Oregon’s Third Party Custody Laws Part II

    These can be difficult cases, and experience counts. Get in to see one of our lawyers or another lawyer of your choice to go over your situation in more detail.

    Sean Stephens, Google +,
    View all posts by author Sean Stephens

  10. Jassen says:

    You say the child must be 18yrs old to choose. But isnt it true you cant force a Teen to go as well? I have to Teens That want to do drivers training and only want to go to the custodial-parent for a month of summer so they can. What can I do about that ? Ive tried to talk to the other party but they dont what to take in count what are children want to do. Should I have the case moved to my State in ID?

  11. Sean Stephens says:


    For parenting time purposes, the court has no jurisdiction over adults, but does over minors. Under 18, if the other parent disagrees with the child’s “choice” it can cause serious problems. Teens can be willful and challenging, but there’s a huge difference between an 18 year old’s decision that is NOT subject to review by the court, and the “choice” of a 16 year old that is subject to review by a judge.

    Sean Stephens, Google +,
    View all posts by author Sean Stephens

  12. James says:

    I have been divorced for almost 4 years. The judge awarded me custody of both my children (now ages 9 & 7). My ex and I share parenting time 50 – 50 (week on week off). We currently do not communicate well with each other. School conferences were last week (she did not show up) and the teachers told me they can tell the difference in the children every other week. I received an email yesterday and today from the youngest child’s teacher saying that he did not have a coat either day(high temp today 44). He was not fed this morning, the clothes he was wearing were dirty and he did not have his backpack and school supplies. The teacher gave him a coat from lost and found so he would have something. I have attendance records from the last two years as well showing both children were habitually late and assignments were not turned on the weeks with my ex. I have been reluctant to take her back to court fearing the unknown and not having the ability to pay another retainer. I can’t keep letting this go on but I don’t feel confident the court will rule any differently and I fear my ex may try to get custody changed to Joint. In your opinion, do I have enough to possibly reduce her amount of parenting time? At least through the school year on the days the children are in school?

    Thank you for your time and input!

  13. Pingback: Helping People During Divorce – Parenting Time Enforcement | The Oregon Divorce Blog

  14. Linda says:

    Grandma here and my granddaughter that is 17 of age. Her boy friend 21 has the
    baby son under DHS. Granddaughter is currently in custody for stealing my debit card and other charges. The boy friend has now a custody for the son. He wants her to pay support and who knows what else. He doesn’t let the grandparents see him, which is wrong. What can I do.

  15. csstephens says:


    Call us to arrange a consultation. Legal parents, even bad legal parents, have constitutional rights protecting their right to make decisions for their children, including the right to let a child visit a grandparent or not visit a grandparent. Legal parents are presumed to be acting in a child’s best interests. If you have had ongoing contact with the child, you may be able to petition to the court to get the right to see your grandson. I’ve written about this issue on our blog several times. For background information, check out “Can I get Custody of My Grandchildren?”, and “Do I have The Right To Visit My Grandchildren?”

    Sean Stephens

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