When can a child decide where they want to live?
This is a common question we get asked when giving legal advice to a parent whose child is expressing certain wishes about time spent with each parent, particularly where there is a reluctance to spend time with the other parent.
The pure legal answer is that children can “decide” where they live when they become adults, at 18 years of age. This is the age at which parents are no longer held legally responsible for the needs of their children.
However, what is more complex is the fact that children do reach stages of their development when they start to become more independent and rely less heavily upon the involvement of their parents. Examples include getting a first job, getting a licence and a car, each of which could occur before they are 18.
There are other times when children genuinely hold strong views about their experiences within another household, and how that could have an impact upon them if those views are not considered carefully.
In short, a court generally won’t simply follow a child’s wishes, but they must consider their views, and the extent to which their maturity and understanding should add or detract from the weight to be placed on those views, along with a myriad of other considerations when determining what is in the child’s best interest.
If you or someone you know is separated and has children with strong views, we recommend you seek legal advice from a family law accredited specialist who can advise on how those views might be considered in conjunction with other considerations.