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Looking for some insight on this question of a legal nature for my novel.

 

Say, if two parents were divorced, when would their child be considered "of age" to decide where they want to live?  Trying to work out how/when Joanna goes to live with Finn in the little town of Timber Gulch.  For quite a while I was working with the idea that they were pretty much estranged, but form that close father-daughter bond over the course of the novel.  But it would save time if they were already close right off the bat.  I'm willing to work either way, because each option would give the story a slightly different spin, or flavor.  So when would she be considered of age to choose to leave her mother and live with Finn, and how does all that work?  Thanks!

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2 minutes ago, Grey_Skies said:

Oof, well, now I'm embarrassed that I didn't think to put that it the OP. *facepalm*

 

She's 15 at the start of the book, soon to be 16.

Okay, then I’d say she’s probably old enough to say who she’d like to live with but it probably depends on the state. The circumstances surrounding the divorce and who the judge is might also play into things. 

 

How old is she when the divorce occurs? Who filed for divorce, and what are the circumstances surrounding it?

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2 minutes ago, Sarah Daffy said:

How old is she when the divorce occurs? Who filed for divorce, and what are the circumstances surrounding it?

She was 8 when Finn and Margaret divorced.  When Finn was 40, he had a heart attack, and Margaret decided she didn't want to be tied down to an invalid husband, so she divorced him.  At the time, the judge awarded her full custody of Joanna because Finn was considered physically unable to care for a young child.

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1 minute ago, Grey_Skies said:

She was 8 when Finn and Margaret divorced.  When Finn was 40, he had a heart attack, and Margaret decided she didn't want to be tied down to an invalid husband, so she divorced him.  At the time, the judge awarded her full custody of Joanna because Finn was considered physically unable to care for a young child.

And when did Joanna go live with Finn and why?

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1 minute ago, Sarah Daffy said:

And when did Joanna go live with Finn and why?

That's kind of what I'm still working on.  That's why I had the question of age.  She might have been with him longer depending on when she could choose to go with him.  The answer to why is because she has always been closer to Finn than she was to her mother.  She harbors some bitterness toward her mother for ditching Finn when he really needed his family.

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1 minute ago, Grey_Skies said:

That's kind of what I'm still working on.  That's why I had the question of age.  She might have been with him longer depending on when she could choose to go with him.  The answer to why is because she has always been closer to Finn than she was to her mother.  She harbors some bitterness toward her mother for ditching Finn when he really needed his family.

If she was under thirteen (according to Google) she probably would not have a say, but if she were older than that, she might be able to request to go live with him but the judge might not fulfill her request. If the parent she is  living with  is abusive, the judge would have reason to move her. (Again, check her state to be sure) 

 

is she still living with mom when she’s fifteen?

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3 minutes ago, Sarah Daffy said:

If she was under thirteen (according to Google) she probably would not have a say, but if she were older than that, she might be able to request to go live with him but the judge might not fulfill her request. If the parent she is  living with  is abusive, the judge would have reason to move her. (Again, check her state to be sure) 

 

is she still living with mom when she’s fifteen?

Okay, that makes sense.  Thank you!  Her mother definitely has . . . issues, as can be seen by the circumstances under which she left Finn.  I'll do some checking up on the states.  She's with her mother in Boston, but she'll go to Michigan to be with Finn.  My plan was for her to still be with Margaret at 15, and leave right before her birthday.  Like I said, that's on the verge of changing.  

 

Well, I've got to be getting off to bed, but thanks for your help, Sarah.  Once again, happy birthday!

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I didn't read through all the comments so if this is a duplicate, forgive me. This is from divorcewriter.com...

 

In most divorce cases, parents reach an agreement without having a judge decide which parent should care for the children on a day-to-day basis. In less than 5 percent of divorces, though, a judge will have the ultimate say on which parent will become the custodial parent. In this case, one of the first questions parents ask when it comes custody is whether the court will allow the child to choose which parent to live with. In most states the children don't have a choice, but in Georgia and West Virginia the courts allow children 14 years of age or older an "absolute" right to choose the custodial parent (as long as the judge deems the parent fit).

However, that doesn't mean that in most states the child has no say.

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If the mother divorced her father because he was invalid, would there possibly be an issue arise between mother and daughter because of her bitterness towards her mother and behaviour as she unconsciously acts out and gets into trouble, that she might send the daughter to go live with the father because she can't deal with her behaviour anymore?

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8 hours ago, Amosathar said:

If the mother divorced her father because he was invalid, would there possibly be an issue arise between mother and daughter because of her bitterness towards her mother and behaviour as she unconsciously acts out and gets into trouble, that she might send the daughter to go live with the father because she can't deal with her behaviour anymore?

Yes, that was one of my initial ideas, which I still might go with.  The anger between Joanna and Margaret definitely figures into it.

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I may be operating under an incorrect assumption here, but I thought I remembered from before that Finn is a step-parent, in which case, I know at least in my state of Michigan, would give him no custodial rights unless the birth parent allowed the step-parent to adopt the child. If the birth mother contested the request to live with a step-parent, she would automatically win since step-parents have no legal rights. (Step-parent speaking from experience.)

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On 11/23/2021 at 2:59 AM, Spaulding said:

I don't have a legal age, but judges start asking at 12-13, and kids tell the judges what by 16.

 

I had to research this for one of my books set in TN.

It does very from state to state in the US but general a child at 13 will be consulted by a court about where they want to live.  At 16 they get to choose and at 18 the court order ceases - they can live alone and do what they want.

 

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14 hours ago, jayjay said:

I thought I remembered from before that Finn is a step-parent, in which case, I know at least in my state of Michigan, would give him no custodial rights unless the birth parent allowed the step-parent to adopt the child

Gee, I didn't even think about this.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention, @jayjay. Since my story is also set in Michigan, that helps too.  I'm still on the fence about whether or not he is Joanna's real father.  (Yeah, I know, indecisive writer here who can't make decisions and stick to them.  It'll be my downfall, I'm afraid.) But since you have experience in that area, my question to you would be this: what if Finn had adopted Joanna years before, shortly after marrying Margaret?  If he had adopted her roughly seven years before Margaret divorced him, does that change things?

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If Finn had adopted her, yes, that changes things. When you adopt a child, they are yours legally, financially, etc. They actually reprint your birth certificate in Michigan with the adoptive parent's name listed under the mother or father. We know the names of our kid's birth parents, but my husband and I are listed on the birth certificate, and their birth parents have no rights since we are legally their parents now.

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