Although no couple ever enters into a relationship with plans to separate in the future, the reality is that separation and divorce are becoming increasingly common in the modern world. One of the most common issues that family lawyers have to deal with is who takes custody of children following a separation.
Unfortunately, child custody issues are often complicated, and they can result in long, drawn out legal battles. Even if one parent is awarded custody and the other visiting rights, there might come a point in the future where a child decides that they actually want to live with the other parent.
With this in mind, it’s important to think about the question of how old a child needs to be before the can choose to live with the other parent.
When Can Children Decide Definitively Who To Live With?
Ultimately, a child’s wishes are taken into account in Australian courts and custody disputes, regardless of their age. However, how much weight these wishes are given depends on their maturity and their age, among other factors.
The sad reality is that Australian children can’t make definitive decisions about who to live with on their own until they reach adulthood – that is, until they turn 18 years old. There may become a point where they decide to take matters into their own hands before then, but legally, they are bound by their parent’s wishes until they turn 18.
How Does A Child’s Wishes Affect Custody Decisions?
A huge percentage of child custody battles go through the family court. Although there are many factors that will dictate which parents are awarded custody or visitation rights, a child’s wishes will be taken into account. Ultimately, the level of maturity and understanding of the situation will dictate how much weight their views are given, especially if they’re reached an age where they can decide for themselves.
For example, a 15 year old who is mature with a well rounded view of the world would probably be able to have a significant input in any decisions about who they have to live with. On the other hand, a 5 year old may have an input, but it probably won’t become a major factor in the court’s decision.
Child custody battles can be stressful and depressing, especially for a child who is caught in the middle. If possible, you and your former partner should put your children first and do whatever you can to resolve your dispute peacefully and without too much fuss.
Employing the services of a family mediator or family lawyer could help you streamline the process. If, despite your best efforts, the matter does end up in court, you most definitely need to make sure that you have a high quality family lawyer representing you and your side of the argument.