We have a new limited series on our YouTube channel titled Fiction or For Real?, where our team of family law solicitors debunk some classic myths that often circulate amongst family law clients. Our first episode discusses one of the most common questions asked by clients going through a parenting matter, and that is: “What age can my kids decide?”.
Fiction, or For Real?
The idea that there is a set age at which a child can make decisions about their parenting arrangements is a family law fiction. In fact, the children’s views are not even binding on a Court, they are only persuasive.
The weight the Court attaches to a child’s views is dependant on the child’s individual emotional maturity and capacity to make an independent assessment about their parenting arrangements. As a parent, you know that your child is unique. The rate at which they have grown and developed is different to their mates at school, the kids next door, their cousins and is even different amongst siblings.
It therefore makes sense that there is no hard and fast rule when answering the question, “what age can my kids decide?”. A child doesn’t just wake up on their 12th birthday, or the day they start Year 7, and suddenly have the tools to make an informed decision about where they want to live and who they want to spend time with. Some kids will have been able to do that for years, and some children still won’t have the capacity do that until they’re well and truly teenagers. It’s a bit like saying: “it’s my child’s first birthday, so they will automatically have their front teeth and acquired the skills to walk”.
As a child get’s older, obviously their views carry much more weight as they grow in emotional maturity, enabling them to make sense of the world around them. If your child is clearly articulating an opinion about what they want to happen, it’s always worthwhile speaking to a lawyer to get advice about how this impacts your wider parenting arrangements and how we can work with you to sort this out.