We often get asked by parents involved in legal conflict, ‘can my child choose who they want to live with?’ Simply answered, the older your child is, the more weight their views and wishes have.
The legal process (including the family psychologists, lawyers and judges engaged in each case) is focused on making parenting arrangements which are in the long-term best interests of the individual child.
Whilst children cannot be made to give their views, any views that they do express (through a family report or an independent children’s lawyer) must be considered.
The weight given to those views during the legal process will depend on the age and maturity of your child:
- Universally, the views of the 15-17 year old child will be highly decisive in parenting matters. More often than not, older teenagers will ‘vote with their feet’, irrespective of what formal arrangements are in place.
- The views of the 12-14 year old child are often given significant weight, depending on their ability to clearly express a high level of understanding and reasoning behind their wishes.
- For younger children, the issue is more complex and will depend on the individual child’s level of emotional maturity. That said, the views of most 8-11 year old children will generally hold some weight when it comes to deciding what is in their best interests.
- Children younger than 7 years are typically considered too young to fully understand the effect of their choices, and their views are usually given little weight in deciding parenting orders.
Contact us for detailed advice about your particular circumstances.