MYTH: “I have been told that when my child turns 12, they can decide where they would like to live.”
FACT: Whenever the Court makes an order relating to parenting arrangements relating to a child, the court is obligated to make that decision in the best interests of the child. In order to decide if a parenting arrangement is in a child’s best interest, it is necessary for the court to consider all of the factors that are set out in section 37 of the Family Law Act. One of the factors set out in section 37 is “the child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them”. This is the section which enables the courts to hear the child’s views on, for example, where they would like to live. These views are often provided to the court by way of a brief Hear the Child interview conducted by a professional or a more in-depth section 211 Views of the Child / Parenting Time Report. Both of these reports are filed with the courts.
There has become a rule of thumb that the older the child is, the more appropriate it is for the courts to consider their views when determining a parenting arrangement. Generally, children between 12 and 14 would have their views considered by the court while the views of children over the age of 14 will be given more weight. It is generally accepted that once the child is over 16, he or she can “vote with his or her feet”. However, the Court will always consider each situation individually and would consider factors such as whether the child is mature enough to properly understand their views, and whether such views appear to be independent. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and all children are unique. If your situation does not fall within general terms, it is always best to discuss your situation with a lawyer. Questions? Never hesitate to give us a call.