“But my child wants to live with me!”- Children’s choice and age of being heard.
When determining the living arrangements for children post-separation, parents often want to know how old their children need to be before their wishes will be heard, and considered by the Court.
The reality of this question is that there is no ‘one size fits all approach,’ each case has different facts and is decided differently. Because of this, the law is careful not to specify an age.
Although many people believe a child who is 12 years old can choose which parent they wish to live with, this is not always the case.
Under section 60CC of the Family Law Act, the children’s best interest will always be paramount in parenting arrangements. In determining what the children’s best interests are, the court will consider any views expressed by the child and any factors that the court thinks are relevant.
So, what are the factors?
- Maturity – Whether the child is able to properly consider the impacts of their decision.
- Age – Although not specifically stated, the age of the child will impart the weight given.
- External Influence – Whether the child has formulated a view or has been influenced.
- Relationships – Whether any other siblings have views on parenting arrangements.
It is important to understand that children mature differently and when they do mature, they will usually be able to make their own decisions about where they live, regardless of any court-ordered parenting arrangements.
Therefore, for example, if a child is 16 years of age or older, the court is unlikely to impose an order which forces that child to live with a parent they do not wish to.
Counselling or psychologist appointments can often help during this period to assist with family dynamics and to uncover the feelings of the child/ren.
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