Kid and parent doing activity in the room

At What Age Can a Child Pick a Parent to Live with?

Divorces occur every day, but if you have children with your former spouse, one thing that needs to be decided is where the children will live. One thing you might be wondering is, 'when can a child decide which parent they want to live with?

We understand this is a stressful time, and for that reason, we want to provide you with this guide to provide answers to many of the common questions pertaining to parenting time (formerly ‘child custody’) in a divorce.

 

Parenting in British Columbia

The first thing you need to do before thinking about where your child will live is to educate yourself about the new (as of May 17, 2021) Parenting laws in British Columbia as well as the federal Divorce Act changes as of March 1, 2021. This is why you must have a legal team on your side that practices family law to fill you in on what you need to know.

 

You will be required to take a ‘Parenting After Separation’ course.  This course should be completed as early in the separation as possible.  It can be found at:

Parenting After Separation (PAS) Courses - Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

 

Being equipped with this knowledge will make it easier to move forward with your divorce and parenting case and might help you reconsider some of the things that you're asking for.

 

Child Choice of Custodial Parent

When Parenting Time is decided, the court will do its best to make a decision that's in the child's best interests. Under the British Columbia Family Law Act, there is no specification regarding the age that defines when a child can choose the parent they live with.

 

However, the court does consider how mature a child is.  Therefore, one could assume that as a child enters into their teen years, the court system will consider their choice more so than a younger child.

 

In British Columbia, you're considered a child until you've reached 19 years of age.  Before that age, as mentioned previously, decisions will be made that provide the best environment for the child.

 

Voice of a Child Report

If your child has a preference about the parent they live with, one way to increase the chances of getting the outcome you want is having them complete a 'voice of a child report.'

A voice of child report gets completed by a professional and will then be presented to the court. Once the judge has the chance to review the report, they will consider several things.

How strongly does the child want to live with one parent over the other? How much information did they provide to the professional interviewing them about their preference?

Is the parent they want to live with able to provide for them and care for them in the way they need to be cared for?

 

Next Steps

While there is no set age to determine when a child picks where they want to live, the court will consider the child's best interest and maturity level.

 

We strongly encourage parents to work together to provide fair parenting time to each other.  This helps to avoid often irreparable trauma to the children involved, through no fault of their own.  The best resources for this are through a call to a Family Justice Centre or online at:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/divorce/family-justice/who-can-help/family-justice-counsellors