Ending a relationship can be an emotionally draining experience for anyone, however if children are involved the process often becomes even more difficult.
Many couples believe that after they separate, their child will be able to choose who to live with when they reach a certain age. However, under the Family Law Act, there is not a particular age that a child can make these decisions.
While the child’s age is taken into consideration by the court when determining their living arrangements, there are 16 other factors that ultimately form a decision that will put the child’s best interests at the forefront.
The two main factors the court will consider are the child having a solid relationship with their parents and both parents being able to shield the child from harm. Where your child wants to live is therefore not one of the court’s primary considerations as this may not be in line with their best interests.
The court will however grant a certain weight to your child’s wishes, depending on their maturity level, understanding of the situation, and whether or not they have been influenced by a particular parent.
For example, if a child says they wish to stay with one parent because they are a better cook, the court will apply limited weight to this for the final decision. However, if a child wants to stay with one parent because their other parent is violent towards them, the court will consider this to be in the child’s best interests, which will influence the decision.
Your child can be evaluated by a family consultant or a court expert to determine these factors and provide a thorough report that will assist the court to understand what is in the child’s best interests based on their individual circumstances.
It is recommended that you attempt to organise parenting arrangements without requiring assistance from the court. No Lawyers’ Family Law Resources aim to assist you with this process and provide information necessary to guide you to a decision that will benefit you and your child.
However, if you have just undergone a separation and are struggling with your child’s wishes, you may wish to consult legal advice so you can be confident you are making the right decisions for you and your family.