If you have separated from your spouse or partner and have children together, you may be questioning whether a child can have a say on who they live with. It is important to have this conversation as early as possible and discuss arrangements for the children as often as needed.
What if my ex and I can’t agree on arrangements for our child?
There are options available if you are unable to agree arrangements. Mediation, if appropriate, may assist you in opening a forum for discussion, where an unbiased and expert third person will discuss your circumstances with you both, to try to reach a solution.
If you are still unable to agree, then you may decide to take the case to court.
Can my child choose where they live?
A child may not want to choose which parent they wish to live with, or might answer with what they think the parent asking the question wishes to hear. Older children may have clear views on what it is they want to happen, but those could also be based on other influences.
If you are considering mediation, children can be included in the process if it is suitable to do so. This may give your child a voice and the opportunity to speak freely to someone independent.
If an application to the court is made to determine living arrangements, a child will usually be spoken to by a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officer as part of the proceedings. They will look at what is best for the child and advise the family courts. When the court considers what Orders to make in the child’s best interests, it will take into account the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, relevant to their age and understanding. This is different to a child’s expressed wishes and feelings, which is what a child puts into words. While some weight may be placed on a child’s expressed views, this can be limited as the court may approach this with some caution. In some circumstances, what a child says might not always be a true reflection of their underlying views, particularly if they have been influenced by either parent. A report will then be prepared by CAFCASS after the meeting with the child and/or parents which forms part of the case.
Unless there are safeguarding issues which may put a child at risk of harm, most family courts prefer that the parents have some sort of shared care arrangement, so as to ensure that a child maintains a full and meaningful relationship with both parents. This would have to be in the child’s best interests, taking into account various factors that may have an impact on their life.
If you need help with any of the issues mentioned, visit EJ Coombs, or email email@example.com.