If you live in Arizona, the answer is when they turn 18. While some states allow children of a certain age to decide who they wish to live with, Arizona does not allow for a child to make the decision, regardless of the child’s age. Accordingly, until the child turns 18, absent agreement of the parties, the court will make the decision on parenting time regardless of the age of the child.
If the child is of sufficient age and maturity, there is some weight given to a child’s preference. However, the preference of your child is only one of many factors a judge may consider in determining a parenting time schedule. The age of your child and his or her ability to express the underlying reason for their preference to live with either parent will determine the amount of weight the judge will give to your child’s preference. Although there is no age at which your child’s preference determines parenting time, most judges give more weight to the wishes of an older child such as a child who is 16 or 17.
The reasoning underlying your child’s preference is also a factor to consider. Consider the fifteen-year-old who wants to live with mother because “Mom lets me stay out past curfew, I get a bigger allowance, and I don’t have to do chores.” Greater weight might be given to the preference of an eight-year-old who wants to live with mother because “she helps me with my homework, reads me bedtime stories, and doesn’t call me names like Dad does.”
If you see that your child’s preference may be a factor in the determination of parenting time, discuss it with your lawyer so that this consideration is a part of assessing the action to be taken in your case.