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How much say does a child have in child custody decisions?

If you are divorcing and you have an older child, they may have some strong views regarding whom they would like to live with. When considering child custody, a family court judge may take your child's wishes into account - if the judge believes what the child wants is in their best interests.

The closer your child is to 18 years of age - which is the age of majority in Ontario - the more say they will likely have in custody matters.

How custody decisions are made

Children should never be pressured into living with one parent or the other. That decision should be made with their best interests in mind. Older children may have opinions and preferences regarding the changes that impact them because of a divorce. If the child is old enough, it is important to hear those views and allow them to voice their opinions. A judge may need evidence or testimony from a child and may ask to speak to them alone or with a lawyer present.

However, a child's preference is not the only thing a court will take into account. In making the custody decision, a judge will look at key factors that impact the best interests of the child. These include things like:

  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • Any plans each parent may have for parenting the child
  • What kind of family life the child has had
  • How fit each parent is to act as a parent
  • The emotional ties between each parent and the child

In any case, a court will rarely issue a custody or access order for a child who is 16 years of age or older. 

Dealing with the uncertainty of maintaining custody of your child can be a tumultuous experience. An experienced family lawyer can help you understand your rights - and work to build the best possible case for you to keep your child in your life.

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