At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?
The press has recently reported that Madonna has applied to the court seeking the return of her son, Rocco, who is 15 years old. Rocco has allegedly decided that he wishes to live with his father, Guy Ritchie, in the UK, in spite of an earlier court order that determined that he should live with Madonna in the USA.
In reaching a decision as to with whom a child should live and spend time with, the court’s “paramount” consideration will be the welfare of that child. The court will also take into account other factors such as the wishes and feelings of that child, the child’s needs (physical, emotional and educational), the effect of any change in circumstances, the risk of harm to that child and the capability of each of the parents of looking after that child.
One of the main issues for the court to consider will be Rocco’s expressed wish to live with his father. A child’s views must be considered in light of their age, maturity and understanding. There is no defined age at which a child’s views will be taken into account, but it is unlikely that the views of a child under 10 will carry any significant weight, whereas the views of a teenage child are very likely to do so.
Commonly, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (known as “CAFCASS”) will be directed by the court to prepare a report, part of which will address that child’s wishes and feelings. CAFCASS often meet with the child to discuss their wishes and feelings, and if need be, can try to determine when a child’s views have been influenced by one of the parents.
Whilst Rocco’s views are likely to carry significant weight given his age, the court must still balance the other factors listed above when determining with whom he should live.
If you would more information or to find out how we can help you, please contact Karen Pritchard, Solicitor in our Family Team on 01279 755777.