There will be questions about who the children live with primarily, as well as those related to visitation, child support, and other aspects of their upbringing. In most cases, as a result of the Family Law Act, it will be assumed that each parent has equal and shared responsibility for their children.
This means that although the children might live day to day with their mother, both she and their father will be expected to discuss and agree on any of the major decisions that need to be made on behalf of their children.
These decisions will include which school they attend, anything relating to their health, including major procedures, their education with regards to religion and culture, plus other matters like them travelling overseas.
in the vast majority of families, even when a divorce occurs, these arrangements, and the shared responsibility works well, and most parents are able to communicate, act, and make decisions which are in the best interests of their children.
However, it goes without saying that as the years pass, children grow up, and as any parent knows, they will increasingly know their own mind, and what they want. This could ultimately mean that one day they are in a position to decide which of their two parents they wish to live with.
This scenario exists both in situations where parents have been divorced for several years, and also where parents are currently in the process of going through a divorce.
This obviously begs the question that we ask in the title with regards to how old a child needs to be before they that can choose which parent they live with, rather than being told by either their parents or the court, who they will live with.
The fact is there is no specific age that a child needs to be in order to make the decision with regards to their living arrangements. In other words, counting down the days to a particular birthday is not how it works. Instead, the court will consider a number of elements relating to the child.
These include how mature the child is, how well they understand the process they are going through, how informed they are with regards to making their decision, and consideration will also be made as to whether or not there appears to have been any undue influence or pressure placed upon the child by one or both of their parents.
Another aspect of the court’s consideration will be a family report. This is created by a family consultant who will conduct interviews with the child and their parents as well as other relevant parties, such as the child’s teacher. They will then present all of their findings and recommendations to the court.
The court may also elect to appoint an independent children’s lawyer who will assess and report upon the child’s circumstances by speaking to a range of people including psychologists, doctors, teachers, councilors, and child welfare.
Once it has all the evidence, the court will make its decision, and its primary consideration will be what is in the best interests of the child, rather than the parents.