Choosing Which Parent to Live With

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Your parents are splitting up. They disagree on how much time you should spend with each of them. Do you get to decide? Are you allowed to give your opinion?

You have the right to give your opinion.

If you are mature enough, you have the right to give your opinion on how much time you want to spend with each parent. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Talk directly to your parents.
  • Talk to the experts involved in your parents’ case (for example, the mediator, psychologist or social worker).
  • Ask to speak in private with the judge who will be hearing your parents’ case.
  • Get your own lawyer, who will speak for you.

The judge has the final say. But don’t worry: she’ll do what’s best for you.

You have a right to give your opinion, but you don’t have to. This means that you aren’t forced to decide which parent to live with.

Also, if your parents try to influence you or force you to choose between them, you can get help. You can talk it over with one of these people:

  • an adult you trust (like a grandparent, aunt, teacher, psychologist or social worker)
  • a youth support organization (such as Kids Help Phone or I’ll Talk to My Lawyer on Wednesday)
  • the judge in private
  • your own lawyer

Your opinion is important to the judge.

Your opinion is very important to the judge, so you need to think carefully about what you say.

How old are you?

8 to 11 years old

The judge must pay close attention to your opinion

12 years or older

Your opinion can determine what happens.

Judges usually respect a teenager’s preference about how much time to spend with each parent