When Can Children Decide Which Parent They Want to Live With?

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.

It is rare for a court to make an order about decision-making responsibility and parenting time for a child who is 16 years old or older, as they are typically allowed to decide at this time whom they would like to live with.

Helping your child choose their living situation

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

There are times when a child has very strong views of their own about who they want to live with, which, if your child is older and emotionally mature you can talk to them about their choices without pressuring them to make the decision that favours you. Here are a few tips to help you have a productive discussion with them:

Be empathetic

If you’ve never been through a divorce, it might be hard to do, but a willingness to see—and feel—life through your child’s eyes and heart can go a long way toward establishing true, meaningful communication with them.

Set communication ground rules

While different opinions are welcome, rudeness and yelling are definitely not. Let your child know that they need to speak politely when they want to be heard and be sure to practice what you preach by doing the same. 

Express and be open about your fears

As their parents, you are always looking out for them, which means you can express the fears that you might have depending on their decision. 

Whether you write in a journal or pour your heart out to a trusted friend, take steps to express your feelings and work through them.

Final Thoughts: Children’s Living Situations 

When you’re discussing your child’s desire to change residency, it can be a sensitive and difficult conversation for you both.

If your child asks to live with your ex, the discussion is not doomed to be a totally negative experience. There are also positive aspects for you to keep in mind such as knowing it’s healthy for your child to openly express their feelings, wants and needs.

While the conversation might not be an easy one for either of you, the fact that you are having it is a sign that you’ve raised an articulate, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent child—something for you to celebrate as a parent.

For more information or to speak with one of our lawyers today, feel free to contact us now.

This blog is made available by the law firm publisher, Epstein & Associates, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. Any specific questions about your legal concerns please contact us now and speak to an expert today.