Can A Child Choose Which Parent To Live With If The Parents Are Not Married?

It would make sense if children had a right to choose which parent they wanted to live with, but what does Utah family law say about it? We have recently received the following question from one of the readers of our blog:

“Hello, my name is Mike and I’m 15 years old. My parents have never been married and I have been in custody of my mother. I love both of them, but if I had a right to choose, I would choose to live with my father. Is there any way I can live with him?

Thank you for your question, Mike. We will let our Salt Lake City family law attorney answer it. One of the most obvious options would be to tell both your mother and father that you want to live with your dad. In most situations, it works.

However, there are many cases when a parent whose child has expressed a desire to live with the other parent objects and does whatever it takes to prevent the child from living with the other parent despite the child’s preferences. But in your particular situation, Mike, you might be entering an uncertain territory.

First step, establish paternity to avoid unnecessary problems

Here’s the thing: given that your parents have never been married together, we assumed that your father has not been recognized by law to be your biological father. When paternity has not been established and recognized by law, moving into your father’s house without a court order may create a plethora of problems for both you and your dad.

We live in a world where nobody bats an eye when a woman claims to be a mother of a child even though she cannot immediately prove it. On the other hand, when a man cannot prove that he is the child’s biological father, people tend to draw a conclusion that this man might be a kidnapper, child abuser, or someone who poses danger to the kid.

Get court orders to live with either parent

Our experienced family law lawyer in Salt Lake City explains that if your unmarried parents are fighting over their custody rights, and you want to live with your father, one of the best things you can do is encourage your dad to take a paternity test and then get court orders.

If there is no court order awarding custody of a child to either a mother or father, then your legal strategy to live with your dad goes like this:

  1. Establish paternity;
  2. Get child custody awarded to your father;
  3. Seek awards of holiday and summer parent-time as well as child support;
  4. Comply with the court orders.

Does a child’s desire to live with either parent matter for Utah courts?

If you want to spend the majority of days with your father, he will need to be awarded sole or primary custody of you. “If you are wondering whether or not your expressed desire to live with either parent has any legal value for family courts in Utah, the answer is: it does,” says our Salt Lake City family law attorney at The Ault Firm.

Family courts in Utah take into consideration a child’s preferences and desires when it comes to determining child custody and parent-time schedules but only as long as the child is 14 years of age or older and no parent is trying to influence the child’s decision to live with either parent.

It might seem simple, but it isn’t. To get a free consultation about your particular case, talk to our lawyers at The Ault Firm today. Call our offices at 801-539-9000.