Who decides who a child should live with?

23 October 2023

In the process of separating from the parent of your child, you may wonder who the child should live with. In the absence of an agreement between the parents, the Court may decide who the child should live with on the basis of what would be in the child’s best interests. 

Parents can agree between themselves how to divide custody of the child, including where the child will primarily reside and how much time they will spend with the non-resident parent. However, in the event that the parents disagree on the division of custody, they can ask Court to make the decision.

What will Court take into account when making the decision?

It is often the case that Court will want a child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Therefore in the case where both parents are present and able, shared custody will often be the starting point in terms of contact. Naturally, as each child custody case is subjective and unique to the nature of each particular family dynamic, there is no “one rule fits all”, and each case is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. However, the welfare the child will always be of paramount concern to the Court, and any decision will be made will the child’s best interests in mind.

Can the child decide who to live with?

Children aged 16 years and above are considered old enough to choose which parent to live with. Therefore Court will often not make custody orders for those aged over 16 years, unless in exceptional circumstances. Parents can decide amongst themselves to honour a younger child’s wishes regarding residency. However if the parents cannot agree and Court intervention is required, Court may consider the child’s wishes to an extent. The extent to which a child’s wishes are considered depend on their age, maturity and best interests.

Therefore, dependent on the age, maturity and experiences of your child their say may have influence on their living situation. However, courts will ultimately make a decision based on what they believe is best for the wellbeing of the child. Which is why some may prefer to make prior agreements either through mediation as a couple or through allowing their child the ability to decide for themselves before Court involvement.

If you are having trouble deciding who a child should live with you can contact 01273 526 507 and speak with our Family Law specialist here at Acumen by heading to our Contact Us page.

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