Children may express strong views about who they want to live with, following separation. But how does a Court take these views into account?
How are children’s views taken into account?
When making parenting orders, a Court considers the best interests of a child as the paramount consideration. As part of the inquiry into a child’s best interests, a Court must have regard to “any views expressed by the child”. The Court will assess factors such as the child’s maturity and level of understanding, in determining what weight to place on a child’s views. Age is not a determining factor.
How does a Court find out about children’s views?
Children almost never give their own evidence in parenting proceedings. In matters where a child’s views may be significant, the Court will often direct a family consultant to prepare a report which will address all relevant matters, including the child’s views. The Court will decide how much weight should be placed on the child’s views, having regard to the consultant’s recommendations, among other factors.
Is there an age at which young people can “decide for themselves”?
There is no specified age at which a Court will allow a child to decide where they will live. However, a Court is unlikely to make an order against the strongly held views of an older teenage child, except in special circumstances.