Does a Child Get To Choose Which Parent They Will Live With?

When parents separate an obvious and perhaps most important decision is where the children of the relationship are going to live.  Any decisions about the time the child will spend with their parents have to be made in the best interests of the child.

What choice does the actual child have in the matter?  It depends.

Either the parents themselves or the courts will have to make the decision as to the time the children will spend with each of the parents.

The separating parents can come to an agreement with regard to parenting arrangements.  Parents when making such agreements may hear the opinions of their children and come to the agreement accordingly.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement then the courts will have to get involved.  The court will decide where the child should live and how much time the child will spend with each of the parents.

The BC Family Law Act says that the court must think only about the child’s best interests which includes a consideration of the following:

  • the child’s health and emotional well-being;
  • what the child thinks or wants, unless it’s inappropriate to consider this;
  • the love and affection between the child and important people in the child’s life;
  • need for stability, which can depend on the child’s age and stage of development;
  • who looked after the child in the past and how well they looked after the child;
  • how well the parents or any other person who wants guardianship, parenting time, or contact will be able to look after the child;
  • if there was any family violence, its effect on the child’s safety, security, and well-being; and
  • whether arrangements that need the child’s parents to cooperate with each other are appropriate.

When considering the opinion of the child a major factor is the age and maturity of the child.  An older more mature child’s opinion will be given much more weight than a younger more immature child.

It is very helpful to get legal advice when children are involved in a separation.  Meeting with a lawyer does not mean you have to go to court.  Seeing a lawyer can in fact often help avoiding going to court and will ensure a fair deal for all parties involved.  Please call Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 for family law related inquiries.