Call our quote line to speak to a qualified solicitor

0800 987 8156*
Send a message

*Call this mobile friendly number or your local branch

What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live with in England and Wales?

On a subsequent breakdown of a relationship, whether married or not, deciding with whom the children are to live with can be a difficult decision to make. Especially as one parent may have to accept seeing their child(ren) less regularly than usual. There is no set rule on how a decision is made and the Family Court rarely gets involved in how parents should make decisions.

Many parents believe it is up to them to make the decision on behalf of the child(ren) about whom is to be their main carer, while some parents believe that the decision should be made by a particular child in question. There is no set rule and much depends on the parenting style of a particular parent and/or family and the age and understanding of the child.

The Court consider the age of the child and determine whether they are of the maturity and understanding of the current situation before determining whether the child’s opinion should be considered. Unfortunately there is no set age as children mature at different ages. Parents struggle to make certain arrangements and impose certain decisions on a child as they become older i.e. which parent to live with, how much contact they are to have with a particular parent etc. as the law is unclear.

Deciding What Parent to Live With

When deciding which parent to live with certain considerations must be taken into account, i.e. practicality of certain arrangements. In many cases, the mother is the main carer for the child(ren) and issues arise in respect of contact for the child(ren) rather than whom the children shall live with.

Some issues do not require the Family Court to intervene automatically. If two parents are unable to come to an agreement on whom the child(ren) shall live with then the parents are able to attend Mediation (MIAM) together. It’s important to attend Mediation before considering any other options. Mediation is where two parties come together with a neutral third party who will help the parties come to an understanding and an agreement. For the purposes of Mediation, parties do not have to be necessary in the same room as each other. If this is something that you wish to discuss further please do not hesitate to speak to a member of our Family Law team who can provide advice on your matter and refer you to a local mediator.  

Mediation allows two parents to come to a mutual decision about whom the child(ren) shall with and how regular the parent is to have contact. Any agreement that is made during Mediation is voluntary between the parties who attend. A mediator can discuss the methods of contact available to certain parents i.e. direct contact, regular letters and cards to the child etc. Mediation may not be suitable where one party has made allegations of abuse about the other.

When a Decision Cannot be Made

Fundamentally, when an agreement cannot be reached between parents and/or the children this can lead to dispute and unrest. If Mediation is unsuccessful the Court are able to get involved.

The Family Court’s Role

The Court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the Child. If they believe that a dramatic change in their life i.e. a change in residence from one parent to the other will have a detrimental effect on their day to day life, the Court will strongly resist changing the agreement. The Court will listen to a child’s opinion and place more weight on their views, if they are of an age and understanding.

The Court will not make this decision alone. The Family Court can rely on the assistance of CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). CAFCASS are hands on with the child(ren) of the proceedings and, if appropriate, speak to them objectively and consider their opinions on the matter. CAFCASS are highly trained to speak and consider a child’s wishes and welfare. CAFCASS will not only speak to the child(ren) in question, they will also take time to speak to both parents, witness contact with both parents with the child(ren), and determine what is best for the child.

What Next

If you like to seek tailored advice in connection with your family arrangements please contact us on 0800 987 8156 and speak to a friendly member of our Family Law Department to make an appointment at one of our offices to go through the process further.

Please contact me

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Ask us a Question

Send us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Ask Us A Question

Related posts

Newsflash! The Supreme Court delivers Judgement in Owens vs. Owens: trapped in marriage?

Mrs Owens appealed against an order of the Court of Appeal of 24th March 2017 by which it dismissed her appeal against the dismissal of the petition for divorce. The Supreme Court heard the matter on 17th May 2018. Mrs Owens and Mr Owens married in 1978, they are aged 68 and 80 respectively. During […]

How to support children through a divorce

Divorce and separation and family breakdown is an incredibly difficult time; even more so if there are children involved. Putting your children first – A guide for separating parents – is available to download at www.tsoshop.co.uk/gempdf/cafcass Children are entitled to a relationship with both their parents whether or not they live together. Research shows that […]

HOW TO COPE WITH CHRISTMAS AFTER DIVORCE OR SEPARATION

Try and plan arrangements well in advance.  Try and discuss matters amicably with your ex to ensure the children get the opportunity to spend time with both parents over the Christmas period.  Have regard to the wishes and feelings of the children; however, try and ensure that they do spend quality time with your ex. […]

Attention! Have you been targeted by spam?

Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting victims by masquerading as law firms and financial institutions. Such activity is commonly known as phishing or spoofing. Click here for an example. If you are unsure as to the legitimacy of any unusual or suspicious emails received, please report to us on 0800 987 8156.