Can my child decide who they want to live with?

As of March 1, 2021, the term  has changed to . And in most situations, the term  has changed to . Now, all parents usually have parenting time.

Also, a person who isn't a parent or step-parent may get a to spend time with a child. For example a grandparent can get this order.

Generally a child cannot decide which parent they want to live with.

But as a child gets closer to the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Ontario, they have more say about where and with whom they live. And it is rare for a court to make an order about decision-making responsibility and parenting time about for a child who is 16 years old or older. Decision-making responsibility and parenting time used to be called custody and access.

It's important never to pressure or try to convince your child to live with you. Children should be kept out of the conflict between the adults as much as possible.

There are times, however, when a child has very strong views of their own about who they want to live with. If your child is older and emotionally mature and able to give their views and wishes freely, you can talk to them about their choices.

If you go to court, the judge uses a legal test called the to make decisions about decision-making responsibility, parenting time, and parenting arrangements.

One of the things the judge can look at is the views and wishes of the child. Usually, the older and more emotionally mature the child is, the more the child's wishes are taken into account.

If the judge needs the testimony of the child or evidence of the child's views and wishes to help them decide, the judge can:

  • Ask the to get involved and prepare an assessment.
  • Ask to speak to the child alone in their office.
  • Ask the child to meet with a lawyer or social worker who prepares a voice of the child report, if the child is over the age of 7. 
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