A question I am often asked when meeting with client who is facing a custody or parenting dispute is “When can my child choose to live with me?” I wish that there was an easy answer, but the fact remains that there really isn’t one. Every case comes with it’s own set of facts, and these are critical to consider before determining the value of the child’s opinion.
I recently assisted a family in a case involving a pre-teen who had been spending equal amounts of time with both parents since the parties separated years earlier. The boy expressed his interests to reside primarily with one parent. Not surprisingly, the other parent made claims that the child had made the same request in favour of living with them. The Court ordered that a child psychologist would obtain the views of the child, ensuring that they were the child’s independent views. It became clear in time that there was some abusive behaviour by one parent towards the child. Once reported, this led to criminal charges against that parent, and an Order that the child would reside with the other parent. The child, not yet in his teens, expressed his views which led to the ultimate determination as to what was in his best interest.
In another matter a 15 year old boy refused to visit one of his parents. The Court Ordered that the child had no choice but to do so. The judges hearing these cases often recognize that it can be difficult to force a parental visit on a 15 year old that refuses it. There is a saying we sometimes hear, that “teenagers will vote with their feet”. I believe it is often true.
In another Alberta case, the Court ruled that when a child of sufficient maturity made an expression to reside primarily with one parent, that this created a change in circumstances, giving the Court the authority to revisit the issue of custody. In this case the child was a pre-teen, but considered mature enough to at least express such an opinion. Then it is up to the Court to make a determination of custody, based on what the Court finds to be in the best interest of the child.
As you will note from the discussion in this article, there are numerous factors to be considered providing opinions related to legal situations like this. It is important to seek out legal advice from an experienced family law lawyer to review the facts of your matter. We have a team of experienced professionals who are ready to assist.
If you are currently involved in or considering a common law separation or divorce in the province of Alberta or would like a second opinion regarding your situation, either myself or a member of our team of experienced lawyers are happy to speak with you. Contact Mark Baril at 403-328-5577 or 780-790-2022, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.