Can Children Themselves Decide Where to Stay, When Parents Separate?

Opinion

The short answer is that it depends on the age of the child. If the parents have joint custody, the starting point is that they must agree on where the child will live. On the other hand, the child should be given greater influence over the decision, the older the child gets. The rule of thumb is that children can decide they will where to stay for live from the age of 12.

The best interest of the child principle

When deciding on a child’s accommodation, the principle of the best interests of the child should be taken as the starting point. It is important to remember that decisions about a child’s accommodation should be based on the child’s needs and not the parents’ need to live with their child. Decisions about where the child lives should not be used to achieve fairness between parents. It is best if parents can be flexible and agree on where the child to stay.

Alternative accommodation

When parents separate, it is common for children to live alternately with parents. The advantage of alternate accommodation is that the child can have a good and close relationship with both parents. Before deciding on temporary accommodation, it is important to think about:

  1. Alternating residences require parents to have a working partnership.
  2. Parents should live relatively close to each other. As a rule, a 60-minute commute between parents is considered too far for suitable alternating residency. If the distance means the child has to change preschool or school, it also means the distance is too far for alternative accommodation.
  3. It is important that the child can continue to hang out with his friends and pursue his interests in his free time.
  4. The older and more mature the child, the greater consideration should be given to the child’s wishes. Typically, the opinion of a 12-year-old who can reason maturely about where he or she wants to live should carry great weight.

If the child lives with one parent

If the child will be living with one parent, remember that the child still has the right to contact the other parent. It is the responsibility of both parents for the interaction with the other parent to go well.

The parent of residence has the obligation to update and inform the other parent about matters that are important for proper contact and custody. Finally, it should be remembered that the parent who does not live with the child is obliged to pay alimony or maintenance allowance based on his or her financial means.

When parents cannot agree to an accommodation

If the parents have difficulty in cooperating, they can write an agreement on where the child to stay, for example the child will live with a parent every two weeks and spend Christmas with one and New Year with the other parent. The social welfare board must then approve the agreement and ensure that it is consistent with the principle of the best interests of the child. If the parents cannot agree to the agreement, the court can decide where the child will live. The court will first try to get the parents to jointly decide on the child’s accommodation. If the parents still disagree, the court will decide where the child will live.

 

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