At What Age Can A Child Legally Decide Where To Live?

Parents going through a divorce and separation usually wish to know the age at which their child or children can legally decide where to live. Given that it is painful already that both estranged lovers are getting separated from each other, it would be more painful to have the children taken away by the other spouse. Given this, both spouses need to reach an agreement about child custody and endeavour to protect the children from being affected by the divorce.

However, the court may intervene in resolving who gets child custody between the parents when they cannot resolve it amicably. Meanwhile, spouses usually desire to know if the children have a say in determining where to live and influence the judge’s decision. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as children must be up to a certain age before their opinions or preferences can be considered by the court. In view of this, parents desire to know at what age a child can legally decide where to live.

During the dissolution of marriage, the court should pay attention to the opinions of the children when making a child custody decision but the weight of the children’s opinions on the judge’s decision varies. According to family law, a child can legally decide where to live when he or she reaches 18 years old. Notwithstanding, their opinions also count when they are 12 or 13 years old for females and males respectively.

Courts are usually reluctant to order children from age 16 to 18 to return to either of their parents if they do not wish to live with them. In that case, courts would consider the opinions of children from 16 years old and allow them to decide where to live. Meanwhile, courts must act in the best interest of the children and ensure that choosing where to live will not be detrimental to their welfare.

In Ontario, children from age 18 have reached the age of majority and can decide where to live. When there is a dispute between parents regarding child custody, the child’s opinion, who is at least 18 years old, will be taken into consideration. Also, the court may consider the opinions of a female child of 12 years and a male child of 13 years regarding child custody.


Except the child is 18 years old in Ontario, the court prioritizes the child’s welfare when deciding on child custody. However, it would help if the parents could agree and settle issues relating to child custody and access without hassles. You can as well contact a family law attorney for advice.

Manolo Hilton
the authorManolo Hilton