If a parenting matter proceeds through the Court, the Court will decide where the child lives, weighing up a number of factors. It is not the responsibility of the child to determine parenting arrangements. However, the child’s view may be considered by the Court in making that decision.
There is no set age at which a child’s preference on where to live will be considered by the Court; it all depends on the particular child. For the Court to give weight to the view held by a child, it must be maturely held and the child needs to have an understanding of what their view is and what the consequences of it would be. For example, if a child would rather live with one parent because they have pizza for dinner every night and the other parent makes them eat vegetables, then that view is not maturely held and is unlikely to influence the Court.
Children do not attend Court and provide evidence directly. The view of a child is determined by the child speaking to an independent person, usually someone known as a family consultant. The consultant will then provide evidence to the Court as to what the child’s view is and the child’s understanding of their view. Based upon this evidence, the Court is able to assess the weight that the view should be given.
Children develop at different rates, and so their view may be maturely held at a much younger age than 13, or it still may not be when the child is 15. This is assessed on a case by case basis, and there is no one size fits all approach.