At what age can my child decide which parent they will live with?

This is one of the most often questions I get asked in relation to children’s matters.  My quick response is “when they turn 18 and they are an adult” but I this isn’t the answer to the question being asked so I go onto to elaborate my response.

As a parent making decisions about your children, you need to make decisions that our in your children’s best interests.  If you are separated and you and the child’s other parent both have parental responsibility you should consider the arrangements for your children together.

If your child has expressed a view about their living arrangements, this should be considered by parents but it is not itself the determinative factor. 

Parents in considering with whom their child lives needs to consider what is in their child’s best interests and in doing so consider all aspects.  This includes matters such as:

  • how a move will affect their education (ie. Will they have to change school or have a long travel to school);
  • will they be separated from siblings;
  • what are the living and care arrangements with the other parent (for example, if the other parent is a FIFO worker and is away half the time and they live in a studio apartment);
  • what effect the change of residence will have on the child.

The age and maturity of their child will of course play a part in considerations.  For example, the views of a 16 years old child of “normal” maturity for their age who has given thought to the consequences of a change of residence should be given greater weight than a 13 year old child, who is immature for their age and who wants to change because the other parent has a better gaming system.  Of course an older teenager may “vote with their feet”. 

If your child approaches you with a proposal to move to your home or from your home to the other parent’s home, you should discuss with your child why they are seeking this change.  This conversation should be done at a time when both of you are calm and there is time to talk. 

Afterwards, subject to any safety concerns you should discuss this with your co-parent.  I would recommend you schedule a time to talk without interruptions (particularly not in the presence of the children).   The outcome of this discussion could be varied and will determine next steps.

If you are unsure about this, we offer an initial consultation for you to obtain advice on your situation and what the next steps might be.  Contact the best family lawyer in Townsville today.