My child wants to live with me after separation

My child wants to live with me after separation. Will the Court consider their views?

When considering the best parenting arrangements for children, the Family Law Act directs the Court to consider the “best interests” of a child as the paramount, most important consideration. To identify what is in the child’s best interests, the Court must consider a range of factors. One of these many factors is the views expressed by the child.

The weight given to a particular child’s views about how they would like to live between their parents’ homes, is entirely dependent on the child’s maturity and their level of understanding. For example, the Court is far more likely to give credence to the views of an emotionally mature 16-year-old, when compared to the views of an emotionally immature 6-year-old.

It is not unusual for children to tell each parent something different about where they wish to live, particularly when they are not emotionally mature enough to reach their own conclusions.  Therefore, to obtain independent evidence, the Court might refer parents and children to attend upon a Court Child Expert or a Family Consultant to prepare a Child Impact Report, which it will then consider as one part of the evidence of what is in the child’s best interests.

In circumstances where there is a risk, such as family violence, drug abuse or mental illness, the Court may appoint an Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICL) to assist.  The ICL might make inquiries with the child’s parents, medical practitioners, teachers and the children directly if they believe it is necessary and appropriate to do so.

It is important for parents to be mindful that a child’s views expressed to them, will not necessarily be accepted by a Court as determinative. There are a range of factors the Courts have regard to in determining the parenting arrangements in a child’s best interests, and their view is only one part of that matrix.

If you would like more information regarding the factors considered by the Court in determining parenting arrangements, including how your child’s views are considered, please contact our team on 9793 7888 and we will be happy to assist you.