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When can a child decide where they live?

We regularly get asked by clients when their child can decide where they will live and who they will live with. There is no set age at which the Court will allow children to make this decision. The Court’s paramount consideration when deciding where a child should live is based on the child’s best interests. […]

When can a child decide where they live?

When can a child decide where they live?

By aylwardgame - Jan 11, 2022 Child Support

We regularly get asked by clients when their child can decide where they will live and who they will live with. There is no set age at which the Court will allow children to make this decision.

The Court’s paramount consideration when deciding where a child should live is based on the child’s best interests. There are many factors that the Court needs to consider to determine what the best interests of the child are. The Court’s primary considerations are that the child have the benefit of a meaningful relationship with both of the child’s parents and the need to protection the child from physical or psychological harm.

The Court also has additional considerations when determining what is in the best interest of the child. Some examples include: each parent’s ability to look after the child’s needs, the attitude of
each parent, the effect of any change in circumstances may have on the child, the relationship the child has with each parent, and so on. These considerations will be weighed together with the views of where the child wishes to live.

When deciding how much weight to give a child’s view of where he/she wants to live, the Court will consider factors such as:

a) The age of the child – generally the older the child gets the more weight their views will have (e.g the views of a child who is 15 have more weight than a 5-year-old child);

b) The child’s maturity and understanding – maturity levels can vary significantly for children of the same age (e.g you can have two children the same age and have one very mature child who understands the impacts of their view and another child who lacks the insight)

c) Whether the child has been influenced by another parent; and

d) The views of other siblings.

There can also be instances where the Court however considers the child’s views and the other considerations and will still Order that an older and more mature child should spend time with a
parent with who they have said they do not want to spend time with. Unfortunately, it is in not a simple answer.

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Children are not required to give evidence to the Court. The way the Court can understand the child’s views is through a Family Report being prepared. A Family Report is a report prepared by either a social worker or a psychologist who reviews the Court material and interviews the parents and the child/ren. In these interviews, the parents and children can express their views and the
Family Report Writer will release a report that sets out the parents and child/ren’s views, an evaluation of the information provided by them, and how much weight should be placed on these
views and they will make recommendations to assist the Court, for example: where the child/ren should live and how much time they spend with the other parent.

As you can see, there is no set age that a child can decide where they wish to live. Generally, the older and more mature they are, the more weight will be given to their views however it is important to remember that the Court’s primary consideration will be the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with each parent and the need to protect the child from harm.

At Aylward Game Solicitors we have experienced Solicitors who will be able to assist you in navigating these aspects of your Family Law Matter. If you wish to discuss your parenting arrangements, please contact our office on 1800 217 217