When can a child choose which parent they want to live with in Australia?

There is no simple, straight answer that anyone can give you; and if someone has given you a flat age, they either do not understand the complexity of this issue or have decided not to share those complexities with you.

When can a child legally decide which parent to live with?

This question potentially comes with the most ‘lawyer’ answer you will receive: it depends.  The age at which your child can decide who they live with, who they spend time with and how much time they spend with that parent (if any) is dependent on a number of factors. 

A child choosing which parent is much more complicated than it looks.

What age can a child decide which parent to live with Australia?

The age at which your child can decide where they live and how much time they spend with the other parent is subjective, meaning it will vary from child to child.  Every child is different and every child grows and develops at their own pace. 

When can a child choose which parent they want to live with?

The test the Court applies when considering the opinions and wishes of your child is two fold:

Two fold stepsFactors considered for when a child can
choose which parent to live with
1. age of the child There is no set age in Australia and it is a factor to be considered.
Children up to the age of 17 have had their wishes ignored.
2. child’s level of
maturity
In this regard the Court is assisted by a family consultant (generally
a qualified social worker or psychologist) who will meet with your
child and, subsequently, provide a report to the court as to your
child’s understanding of the current parenting situation, based
on their assessed maturity level and capacity to make decisions.

However the answer to the two-fold test is not a simple “yes” or “no” and is not a question of whether your child’s wishes will be considered or not. Rather, the question for determination is: what weight will the court give to your child’s wishes? The court will apply a gradient to your child’s wishes and preferences and, depending on their age and level of maturity, your child’s decision may have a significant impact on the outcome of your legal proceedings, or it may be balanced against other factors outlined in the Family Law Act which the Court must give consideration to (including the importance of maintaining a significant relationship with both parents, and the need to protect the child from child abuse and family violence).

Can a child choose not to visit a parent?

The mere age of your child will not determine your family law matter.  There have been cases before the Court where a 17 year old child’s wishes were given limited weight because the basis for this child’s decision was not balanced. In other word’s, the child’s reasons for their decision were not deemed mature and appropriate. In other circumstances a 13 or 14 year old’s wishes may be given significant weight if they are expressed in a well thought out and mature manner. 

If your child is expressing a wish for different parenting arrangements it is best to discuss your matter with a solicitor to receive legal advice specific to your circumstances.

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