Common Misconceptions: When Can my Child Choose Where They Want to Live?
Hi, my name is Deleta Grandy, and I am a lawyer at the Feldstein Family Law Group. Today, I would like to talk to you about one of the most common questions that I hear from prospective clients: when can my child choose if they want to live with me or my former spouse? This question stems from a common misconception in family law that once a child reaches a certain age, they can decide where they want to live. The actual answer is that as long as your child is under the age of 18 (except in exceptional circumstances involving children with special needs, for which there is a different set of criteria), a child is subject to the jurisdiction of the Court, or agreement of the parties, with respect to where they should reside. Although a child does not have the final decision as to where they will reside, their views and preferences do carry significant weight. The older a child is, and the more easily the Court is able to determine their views and preferences, the more weight will be given to that child’s expressed wishes when considering the parenting issues. For example, a Court would generally be more likely to grant an Order for a child to reside primarily with one parent when that child is 17 years of age, and nearing the point where they would no longer be under the Court’s jurisdiction, than a child who is 13 years old. In the case of the younger child, the Court may want to look more closely at why the child is expressing a preference, and whether that preference is being unfairly influenced by one of the parents. A child’s views and preferences are only one item that a Court must consider when determining parenting issues for children. In Ontario, we do not place children in the middle of parenting disputes. As such, regardless of the age of your child, it is important that they do not feel as though they are being asked to choose between their parents, and parents should refrain from talking to their children about adult issues. If a child’s views and preferences need to be determined, this should be done with the assistance of third-party professionals. If you would like more information on how to resolve the parenting issues in your matter, please visit our website at www.separation.ca. If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation to speak with one of our lawyers about your family matter, please call us at 905-581-7222. Thanks for watching!