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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Attorney experienced in numerous areas of law.
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what would be the best way for my 16 (17 in two months) year

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what would be the best way for my 16 (17 in two months) year old who lives in georgia with his father to move back to louisiana with me? his father has legal custody right now, but he is very unhappy living there. is he old enough to just leave, or go to a judge himself and ask for custody to be transfered back to me? his father has had custody for the last four years after a mutual agreement between us because we both thought that he would benefit from having more of a male influence during his teenage years. the relationship between his father and myself is not a bad one, but he does not want him to come back and live with me. he and his wife are extremely religious and this i believe is the primary road block in this situation. i don't have a lot of money to devote to this.. what should i do?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 5 years ago.
Hello there:

Thank you for entrusting me with your question. If the existing child custody order is not meeting the best interests of the child, the option is to ask the court for a modification.

Child custody is determined based on the best interest of the child regardless of the minor child's age, so there is no age at which a minor child gets to choose where they reside; however, the preferences of the child will be taken into consideration and weighed based on their age and maturity. In practice, the court typically starts listening to the child's preference in earnest around age 12 or 13, and almost always defers to their preference by their 15th birthday because, frankly, the child at that point can either run away or emancipate and there is almost no point in not letting the child choose. I have only seen the court not adhere to the wishes of a 16 year old once or twice (and those were exceptional cases) and I have seen the court not adhere to the wishes of a 15 year old perhaps a dozen times. A 14 year old who doesn't want to visit with a parent because "I dunno... it'd be kinda cool" will not be taken seriously, but a 16 year old who can explain the importance of the proposed arrangement to their personal developmental and emotional needs will typically get to "choose". It really depends on the child.

Discussing the articulation for wanting to move, children have emotional and developmental needs and I am concerned about his current situation in that regard. I am sure that I don't need to tell you that the teen years are a difficult time for a lot of kids, and sometimes one parent is simply more capable of providing the extra emotional support that the child needs. That is a solid reason for wanting a change.

I understand that you may have follow-up questions. Let me know if further clarification is needed. Thank you.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

what would have to be done in order for my son to actually talk to the judge? Would I have to hire a lawyer to take him back to court? I have very little money for a lawyer. Also, his father is not letting him come on a normal visit (one that is not in the papers) on this weekend because my son told him he wanted to move back. I do get a week on Christmas, legally, so what if my son were to come and not go back? And, what if he were to run away before then? Could he have charges to face in juvinille? Would he HAVE to go back? And "how" do you get emancipated?? I need to know every possibility of how to do this and without alot of money.

Expert:  Brandon M. replied 5 years ago.
The court has discretion to speak with the child; at age 16/17, the court will usually choose to do so. Initially, it is enough to simply assert in the court pleadings what the child wishes and express that you would not object to the child being questioned in the judge's chamber if necessary. Hiring an attorney is always helpful, but not required.

Do not let your son simply ignore the court's order. Do this the right way. The court will back you up, so just jump through the right hoops even if it is not easy. If your son ran away, he could face juvenile charges.

The process for getting emancipated requires a rather detailed discussion and is therefore probably more than what I can address here--in short, it requires petitioning the court for emancipation and proving the capability to be self-sufficient. Frankly, a modification to the custody order is much simpler.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Who should I contact to get the modification started? it is in Jasper, Ga. in Pickens County. Do you have contact information?

Expert:  Brandon M. replied 5 years ago.
You would need to contact the family division of that county's courthouse and request a "child custody modification forms packet". Most courts have the forms available online as well. I am not familiar with the Pickens County court, so I am afraid that I can only give you what Google gives me.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thank you very much for the help
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 5 years ago.
My pleasure, and best of luck.