When can a Child Determine Which Parent He Will Live With?

Question: What age can a child determine which parent he will live with?

Answer:  This is a question I receive quite often from parents going through a custody fight with their spouse or former spouse.  There is a misconception that the South Carolina child custody law allows children who have reached a certain age to make decisions on where they should live.  This is simply not true.

Children, no matter what their age, generally lack the knowledge and life experience to make a binding decision on their own.  If the custody of a child is a contested matter, then the child will not get the final say on where he or she lives.  This does not mean the child gets no say, but just not the final say.

In a contested South Carolina child custody matter, the Family Court will determine what is in the best interest of the child.  The “best interest of the child” is the overarching consideration in any issue regarding children.  The child communicates to the Court through the Guardian ad Litem appointed to represent the child and provide information to the Court about the details surrounding the children.  The judge will use the Guardian’s report along with the other evidence from trial to determine what is in the child’s best interest and in whose custody they should be.


  1. Dawn Falco says:

    My children are 15, 13, and 11. There father is always using their extra curricular activities to control them. I don’t have as much money as him and he knows this so court is probably not a solution. Recently without my consent my ex told my daughter she could no longer do cheerleading. He contacted her coach and did this without discussing it with me. My daughter does not want to visit with him anymore because she is tired of him talking negatively about me and her. At what age does she have the right to decide if she wants to visit or not? She really enjoys cheering and wants to get a job this summer.

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  3. kohl fonokalafi says:

    I am 14 and me and my brother are going through this and my non aabusive step father was reported to be abusive and idk what to do

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