My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I am now 16 years old and every time I turn a year older I get told I have to be one year older than I currently am before I can tell the judge which parent I want to live with.

Thank you @bdb484 for the following question "Who is telling you this?" Just incase if anyone else is wondering that same question, it's both my mom and dad. And dad has custody but wants me to live with my mother and I don't want to live with her.

  • 7
    Who is telling you this?
    – bdb484
    May 19, 2021 at 21:10

1 Answer 1


Iowa law that is relevant to custody is here. At no point is a child prohibited from expressing his wishes to a judge. §598.41 prescribes how the court determine custody. Para 3(f) specifically includes

Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.

This would have been the case at the initial custody hearing, and any petition to modify custody. There is no rule setting a lowest age for considering a child's wishes, but there may be a tendency to consider "teenager" as potentially old enough.

A custody arrangement can be modified, but the petitioning parent has to show that there has been a “substantial and material change in circumstances” since the initial decree.

But let's assume that the parents have joint custody, then none of that applies and you live where your parents agree you should live. You don;t have legal standing to petition for a change of custody, but you might (if there is a good enough reason) succeed on a petition for emancipation when you are 16.

  • 2
    As a practical matter, it isn't uncommon for older teens to disregard custody orders, and are rarely punished for doing so. But this could be a real problem for a parent that allows a child to live with them contrary to a custody order. On the other hand, even when the parents aren't have joint custody, if they completely agree on a change in custody, a judge is unlikely to overrule them.
    – ohwilleke
    May 20, 2021 at 19:02

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