There is no straightforward answer to that question.
A Judge must consider what is in the best interest of a child. The wishes of a child are taken into account under our Family Law Act and give effect to international treaty obligations. Generally, the views of a young child will not weigh high in a Judge’s consideration, nor will a child ever be required to choose or express a choice by any professional who talks to them in a family law process. Involving children in contentious proceedings can in fact be harmful to their short and long term development.
As a child gets older, the Court is more likely to take their mature views into account. Usually this will mean a child will be assessed by a child dispute conference counsellor (a counsellor in everyday language) or other psychiatric experts, and often an Independent Children’s Lawyer. An Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed in cases where there are issues of violence, child or drug abuse, or sexual abuse to name a few examples.
The question as to when the kids get a say is complex and assessed on a case by case basis. For expert assistance please contact one of our family law specialists.
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