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Changeville: A website to help younger kids whose parents are going through separation or divorce

Families ChangeAn online Guide to Separation and Divorce for teenagers and younger children. 

Family Law in BC:  A website about the legal process, including guides to separation and divorce and where to get legal help.

Family Break-up

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Can Kids Decide Who They Will Live With?

Kids don’t usually get to choose which parent they will live with (or how much time they’ll spend with each parent) after a separation or divorce, but your opinion matters and should usually be considered by whoever is making the decision.

Your parents might write an agreement about how much time you’ll spend with each of them (sometimes called a parenting plan) or, if they can’t agree, a judge might decide. Either way, the law says that the only thing your parents and the judge can consider is what is in your “best interests”.

The law sets out a list of the things that are included in “best interests”. One of them is what you want (unless it is not appropriate to consider that). The other things that are included in best interests are:

  • Your health and emotional well-being
  • The love and affection between you and other important people in your life
  • Your need for stability at your age and stage of development
  • Who has cared for you in the past
  • Whether your parents (or others who want to parent you) are able to look after you
  • The impact of any family violence on your safety, security, and well-being
  • Whether arrangements that require your parents’ cooperation are appropriate

So, your views should be taken into account in most cases. If your parents make a decision that you're not happy with, talk to them about it. If you have trouble talking to your parents, talk to a counsellor or other trusted adult. Maybe they can help you find a way to let your parents know what you think.

If a parent is making it difficult to see your other parent, remember that you have a right to time with both your parents, if that is in your best interests.

If your parents go to court, the court will probably want to know what you think about where you will live and how much time you will spend with each parent.

Your opinion is important, but it's only one of several important considerations. How much your opinion counts will depend on things like your age and maturity. The older you are, the more weight your parents and the court will probably give to your opinion about how much time you want to spend with each parent and where you want to live.