Can my child choose who they live with?

Yes, depending on your child’s age and maturity.

The older your child is, the more weight their views will usually be given by judges, independent children’s lawyers and family report writers in contested parenting matters.

Older teenagers pretty much vote with their feet. While still legally ‘children’, 15-17 year olds have usually figured out what’s going on with their family and are able to say (with some conviction!) if they want to live with mum or dad, or a bit of both.

Children in the 12 to 14 year age group also have considerable say about who they live with, particularly if they are emotionally mature and able to articulate solid reasons for their choices.

8 to 11 year old children will have some say, but the weight given to their views will depend on the maturity and understanding of the child in each particular case.

Generally speaking, children 7 years old and younger are thought to be too young to really understand what their choices will mean. The views of children in this younger age group are not usually given much weight in family law terms.

Justine Dean – Samford Family Law