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Preston and Associates: Family and Criminal Law

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with?

There is a common misconception that the Family Law Act sets out a specific age for when a child can decide which parent he or she wants to live with.

At Preston and Associates, it is our experience that prior to receiving legal advice, many parents believe that once a child turns 12, he or she is legally able to decide which parent to live with, however, this is not the case.

The weight given to the views of children in a parenting matter will depend on a number of factors, like the age of the child, and also careful consideration of the maturity, insight and understanding of the particular child.

Understandably, it is not appropriate for the Family Law Act to state a particular age for when a child can decide where he or she lives; this is because each child is different, and each dispute has its’ own unique circumstances which must be considered.

Not all children of the same age share the same level of maturity or insight about their family dynamics. Further, some children may be more vulnerable than others, and their ability to make decisions that are in their best interest may be clouded by a whole range of circumstances arising in the family.

Parents going through separation are best placed to avoid giving a child the impression that the child’s decisions will be final as soon as they turn a particular age. Not only might such advice be incorrect, but it may also be very stressful for the child.

Where a child is expressing a strong desire to live with a particular parent, both parents are best placed to communicate amicably with each other about the child’s expressed wishes and endeavour to work together to resolve the matter with an agreement that reflects the child’s best interests.

It is important to ensure that children are not placed in a position whereby they are exposed to parental conflict or exposed to adult matters which are for the parents to decide.
Often, in circumstances where a child is expressing a view about the parenting arrangement and this is leading to some conflict between the parents, it is wise to seek legal advice or seek the assistance of a family therapist, who can work with the family.

It is always of benefit to steer away from contentious litigation, as hostility between parents will only fuel the child’s sense of unease.

How does the Court hear the expressed wishes of children?

In most cases, the manner in which a child’s views and wishes are ascertained is through the preparation of a Family Report. The preparation of a Family Report involves the Court or the parties engaging an expert Report Writer or Family Consultant to conduct interviews with the parents and the children involved in the proceedings.

The Report Writer will then prepare a Report, which includes an analysis of the key issues in the matter and further sets out recommendations as to a parenting arrangement that reflects the child’s best interests.

Where the Report Writer deems it is appropriate, the expressed views and wishes of the child are documented in the Report, for the parties and the Court to consider.

Get Informed

If you are a separated parent and require advice and direction in relation to your parenting arrangements please do not hesitate to contact Preston and Associates. Our expert Family Lawyers at North Lakes or Brisbane will provide you with practical and empathetic advice specific to your case.

Disclaimer: This blog is produced by Preston and Associates: Family and Criminal Law. This blog is not intended to give legal advice. This blog provides general information only on topics related to family and criminal law. At no time, should you rely upon such general information as legal advice. We encourage you to contact Preston and Associates to seek legal advice regarding the circumstances of your matter.

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