What Age Can Children Decide which Parent to Live with in Ontario?

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If you and your spouse are separating or going through a divorce, you have probably heard a lot of conflicting information. This is especially true when it comes to how old children can be to legally decide which parent they will live with. People may tell you children as young as 10 can decide. Others may say that no child under the age of 16 can choose which parent to live with. Or you may have been told that Ontario’s child custody age is somewhere around 12.

It’s important for you to know that none of these are accurate.

Can the Child Decide?

Ontario’s Family Law does not specify an age when a child can decide which parent to live with. In fact, while the child’s preferences are considered, the child doesn’t actually make that decision. This is because the court considers it the responsibility of the parents to decide where a child will live, based on the child’s best interests.

Deciding where the children will live is only one of the issues that needs to be worked out when a marriage breaks down. Separating or divorcing parents also need to agree on how often the children will see the parent they don’t live with as well as financial support and custody arrangements. Ideally, you and your estranged spouse, along with the help of family law professionals, can negotiate to create a parenting plan that meets your child’s needs.

If you and your former spouse cannot agree on habitation, custody, and support issues, the court can assign a judge to decide. The judge or a representative—i.e. a social worker or psychologist—will talk to your child to find out what he or she wants.

Parental Influence?

During divorce, children can too often be caught in the middle of two parents, both of whom claim to be the better parent. One parent might take steps to cloud a child’s opinion of the other parent, to swing custody in their favour. Ontario’s laws do their best to protect against young people from being unfairly influenced.

It’s important to understand the child’s preference is not the only consideration in deciding where a child will live. The judge will also take into account the stability of each parent’s home, who the child has been living with during the separation, and how willing the parents are to act in their child’s best interests.

Get the Professional Help You Deserve

If you’re going through a divorce, speak to a family law professional to get the help you need to negotiate the best possible living and custody arrangements for your children. During this stressful time you want to ensure your children feel loved and secure.

Galbraith Family Law lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice, and we have been named the top firm by the Barrie Examiner multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.

Click here to contact us, or to schedule a consultation. Or you can call the local office listed at the top of the page.

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