If you are going through a divorce or separation, you might be wondering whether your child can have a say in which parent they will live with or what the parenting time schedule may be. At what age should a child be allowed to have input in their own custody case?
Child Custody Cases in Ontario
In child custody cases in Ontario, courts prefer that parents reach an agreement on the child custody issues. Many separated or divorced parents can reach a mutually acceptable arrangement, often with the help of family law mediators and other professionals.
However, when parents cannot agree, the court ultimately makes the decision on the custody arrangement, how parents will split time with their child or children, and where the child or children will primarily reside.
Although the court primarily focuses on crafting an arrangement that serves the child’s best interests, in some cases, this means factoring in the child’s stated preferences about which parent they want to live with and how they want to split up their time between their parents’ homes.
When Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?
Ontario law has no pre-determined age at which children can decide which parent to live with or otherwise offer their preferences for the custody arrangement. Judges will consider a child’s views and preferences at various different ages, depending on the level of maturity exhibited by the child, their ability to express their views, and whether the child’s views and preferences show that they have put thought and reasoning into their position.
Judges may also place varying degrees of weight on a child’s stated preferences based on those factors when considering the child’s preference along with the other statutory factors for determining the child’s best interests.
Judges may ascertain the child’s views and preferences for custody in one of several ways. A judge may choose to speak to the child alone so that they don’t feel influenced by the presence of their parents or their parents’ lawyers. A judge may also ask the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to prepare an assessment. Alternatively, a judge may have a child over the age of seven meet with an independent lawyer or social worker to prepare a Voice of the Child Report.
How a Family Law Lawyer Can Help
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on a custody arrangement, a lawyer can help you and your family efficiently and effectively resolve the dispute. A lawyer can put you and your family in touch with family therapists and mediators who have special training and expertise in helping families settle child custody issues.
A lawyer can also help you obtain resources and services to ascertain your child’s or children’s views and preferences if you think it can help resolve outstanding issues. A lawyer can additionally provide critical advice and advocate on your behalf to try to negotiate a custody arrangement that respects your child’s preferences while also serving their and your family’s best interests.
Why Choose Carmichael Law?
If you find yourself and your family in the midst of a child custody proceeding, you need effective legal representation to help you protect your rights and interests, as well as your relationship with your child. Choose Carmichael Law for our:
- Combined legal experience of more than three decades
- A personalized approach that recognizes the uniqueness and importance of your case
- Dedicated efforts to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system
- Honest, thoughtful advice aimed at protecting and promoting your best interests
Contact us today for an initial consultation to learn more about how the Ontario child custody lawyers at Carmichael Law can help you through the child custody process in Ontario. Call us at 907-571-5123 or fill out our online form to begin.