At what age can a child decide?

In law, there is no fixed age that determines when a child can express a preference as to where they want to live. However, legally, a child cannot decide who they want to live with until they are 16 years old.

Once a child reaches the age of 16, they are legally allowed to choose which parent to live with. The exception to this is where there is a Court order (such as a Child Arrangements Order) stating that they should live with one parent until, for example, the age of 17 or 18.

If you can come to an agreement with the other parent and your child, then this can help to avoid costly and lengthy Court proceedings.

However, if you can’t agree where your child will live and an application is made to the Court, the Judge will start to take your child’s wishes and feelings into account from the age where it is considered they understand the situation. This is typically from the age of 12 or 13 but will depend on the child and other issues such as any learning difficulties or disability.

The wishes of a child under the age of 12 may also be considered, but the Court is likely to give less weight to these.

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