Parenting Time: Can They Decide Which Parent to Live With?

child custody

If you are going through a parenting issues case or separation, you have probably heard quite a few things. One of the most pressing matters to resolve is if your child can decide which parent they will live with after you separate or divorce. Some people may have told you your child can decide where they will live. Others may say that the child’s age has to be 16 or 18 years old before they can decide. Still, others will tell you that you can only decide where the child will live, not the child themselves. Read on to learn the truth about how old children can be to decide which parent they want to live with after a separation or divorce in Canada.

When Can Children Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Generally, children in Canada cannot decide where they want to live with a parent. The age of the child or their maturity will not have any bearing on whether or not the court can order that the child lives with one parent or the other. Though a child’s opinion can be taken into account by the court at the time of the hearing, the court will make the final decision on where the child will live.

There is one exception to this rule. If one parent has committed sexual abuse on the child, it may be that the child was so affected by the abuse that they are unable to make the decision of where they want to live. In this situation, the court will usually appoint a Guardian ad Litem to make the best decision for the child.

At What Age Can My Child’s Preference Be Considered?

Part of determining the right parenting time for your child is considering the views of your child. The law does not specify an age at which children can be asked whom they want to live with, and there is no hard-and-fast rule for determining if a child is mature enough to have their own opinion. The final decision in a parenting issues case is determined by the facts of the case, but here are a few guidelines that judges tend to follow: 

– Children under the age of twelve are rarely chosen to testify in court without the other parent present.

-As a child gets older and close to the age of maturity (19 years old), their opinion becomes more important. Teenagers should have a say in where they want to live and how much time they spend with each parent.

The older a child is, the more say they will have in their final parenting time decision.

The Child’s Preference in Parenting Issues Cases

The best interests of the child are usually the primary determining factor in a parenting issues case. This may lead some parents to believe that there is no point in asking the child which parent they prefer to live with. As stated previously, the child’s preference will still be taken into account, so there is no reason the child shouldn’t be asked, but the child’s wishes will not completely determine which parent they will live with.

The Effects of Divorce on Children

Regardless of why you are divorcing or if you have been together for a long time or a short time, divorce or separation can have a large impact on children. But the emotional and psychological effects of divorce on children can be minimized by preparing your children early on.


Children can be a factor in determining parenting time, but the wishes of a child will not always be followed. Though your child may want to live with you, the child’s maturity and the judge’s opinion will both play a role in determining which parent the child will live with.

Dreyer and Associates Family Lawyers is a team of experienced professionals with more than 90 years of combined experience in the industry. Our team works hard to assist clients with matters involving family law, residential conveyancing, and wills and estates. If you need the help of a parenting issues lawyer, don’t hesitate to call. Contact Dreyer and Associates Lawyers LLP today to schedule an appointment.





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