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  • Writer's pictureEva DiGiammarino

Custody in Ontario: Can A Child Decide Which Parent To Live With?

Family law in Ontario prioritizes the best interests of the child when determining custody and access decisions.

While the views and preferences of a child can be taken into consideration, there is no specific age at which a child's wishes automatically determine which parent they will live with. The court will assess various factors, including the child's age, maturity, and ability to understand the situation, when considering their wishes.

In Ontario, the court may consider the child's preferences if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express their views. Generally, children aged 12 and older are more likely to have their views given weight by the court. However, it is important to note that the court is not bound by the child's preference and will make a decision based on what is in the child's best interests.

For families who don't want to go to court, the negotiation/mediation process can still include discussions about the child's wishes/views through what is called a "Voice of the Child Report".

A "Voice of the Child Report" is a document prepared by a professional, typically a social worker or psychologist, who interviews a child or children involved in a family law dispute. The purpose of the report is to provide the child's perspective on issues related to custody, access, and parenting arrangements. The report aims to ensure that the child's voice is heard and considered in the decision-making process.

The process of creating a Voice of the Child Report typically involves the following steps:

  1. Interviewing the child: The professional meets with the child, typically in a neutral setting, to discuss their thoughts, preferences, concerns, and feelings regarding the family law dispute. The interview is conducted in a child-friendly manner, taking into account the child's age and maturity level.

  2. Gathering information: The professional may also gather information from other relevant sources, such as parents, teachers, and healthcare providers, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the child's circumstances and needs.

  3. Preparing the report: Based on the information obtained through the interviews and other sources, the professional prepares a report that outlines the child's perspective. The report may include the child's views on living arrangements, parental involvement, and any other matters that may affect their well-being.


The older and more mature the child, the strong their case will be to have their views and preferences considered when parties are either negotiating a parenting plan outside of court or by a Judge if a family is in court. The law is also flexible where a child may be younger than 12 years old, if the child is mature and capable of articulating their preferences and if the larger context warrants it. Note that a child would never actually participate in a court hearing themselves but rather a social worker or psychologist specially trained to assist in these matters would interview them for a Voice of the Child Report.

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Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

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