At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Alberta

At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Alberta - Heidi Dinning

At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With in Alberta

Divorce can be a very challenging and difficult situation for all– not just for the spouses, but their children as well. Many things will need to be negotiated, from finances to the parenting schedule. Depending upon the ages of the children, they may have a say in things as well – and the parents and the courts need to listen to their voices and the child’s wishes.

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What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?

While a child cannot have the final say in which parent they live with, in a legal sense, there is a certain age where their perspective will hold more weight.

Typically, children who are 12 to 14 or older, have a voice that is given more weight.

In certain situations the perspectives of children under 12 years old are taken into account. However, there are instances where the views of children 14 years old or younger may not be considered. Generally, the opinions of older teenagers are consistently acknowledged by the courts, aiming to prevent the possibility of them resorting to running away. Although a child’s wishes are not always considered the courts will generally try to speak with the child or children to get a sense of their perspective.

Of course, if the child is not a minor but still lives at home with their parents, this is another story. An 18-year-old or child older than this will be able to choose which parent to live with, without the court getting involved.  Child custody is often not a straight line and involves flexibility and compromise.

Also Read – How To Tell Your Kids About Divorce

Factors Considered When Placing a Child With a Parent

When the courts are involved and are helping to place children with a custodial parent during a separation or divorce, some factors are heavily considered. We will go over some of the most important and most considered factors below. 


First things first, when it comes to child custody the maturity of both the child and of the parent should be considered. If the child is immature and wants to live with one parent, their opinion might not hold as much weight as if the child were mature.

This is, of course, because a lack of maturity might mean that the child is making this choice for the wrong reasons– for instance, living with a parent that will give them free reign and less discipline, wouldn’t be taking the best interests of the child if we let the child decide in a scenario like this. Likewise, if the parent is immature, then the courts will likely not want to place the child with them because they might not be able to care for the child appropriately.

As a parent, you know that a child’s wishes change constantly and a parenting arrangement helps to keep everyone on the same page. As a child matures time spent with one parent vs the other parent could become more flexible. The idea is to let the maturity of the child develop before lasting legal decisions are made.

Situational Details

There are also plenty of details that will come out during a divorce, which can influence which parent the child is being placed with. These details are being referred to, for the purpose of this article, as situational details, because they can differ for each divorce. After all, each divorce is a different scenario. Often, these details can be linked to the reasons for the divorce, such as one parent’s irresponsibility with finances or a history of substance abuse, violence or criminal behaviour. 

Health Concerns

If the child has any mental health issues or if the child’s physical health is a concern, the courts will also consider these factors and place the child with the most appropriate parent. The parent that is able to provide the most consistent, safe and stable environment is also going to be who they want to place a child with. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a child choose which parent to live with in Alberta?

No, a child cannot be the one to choose which parent they live within Alberta. Of course, the parents can take a child’s life situation, and their voice into account, but the final decision is up to the parents and/or any professionals involved in formulating the parenting schedule and living arrangements.

Can a 13-year-old decide which parent to live with in Canada?

When it comes to children choosing what parent to live with after a divorce or a separation, there is no specific age where the child is able to make this choice. The exception to this is if the child is no longer a minor and is over 18. However, if it was a 13-year-old, for instance, the child can make their preferences known to the parents but do not necessarily have the final say. Every kid is different, so their needs should definitely be considered when making this decision!

Remember that the best interests of the child will be taken into consideration when decisions are made, and a child’s relationship with each parent will be evaluated. Sole custody isn’t always the best thing for a child, and one parent may not be able to support a child on their own so parenting arrangements and court orders may be necessary.

What age can a child refuse to see a parent in Alberta?

There are some situations where a child may not want to see one of their parents anymore after– or during– a separation or a divorce. If the child is aged 14 or over, you can no longer compel them to see the parent that they do not want to see and interact with. At this age, it does actually become an offence to force the child to see the parent. This may come into play if the child feels trapped or there is family violence and the child is being abused by this parent– it can also be because the child is upset about the situation and the divorce, so it is important to get to the root of the issue.

Can I move with my child without the father’s permission Alberta?

Generally, no, you cannot move your child without permission or without notifying the other parent, regardless of the role the other parent plays. If you do move without the permission of the non-custodial parent or without the permission of the court, you could face legal repercussions in Alberta, and in other areas as well. If you do not have the other parent’s permission, then you do need to get the permission of the court in order to make this move and parenting arrangement or custody arrangement with your child. 

What age can a child refuse to see a parent in Canada?

In Canada as a whole, the age that a child can refuse to see the non-custodial parent is older, typically around 14 years of age but again, this is not guaranteed. This may also fluctuate slightly depending on the province you live in, and the overall circumstances of the situation. The bottom line, there is no specific age when a child gets to decide which parent they will live with. Each child is unique, and their views may be considered by a judge or arbitrator when deciding what parenting arrangement is best for the child and their family circumstances. Above all, the courts will do their best to make decisions in the best interests of the child. 

Custody and access disputes can also affect where a child spends it’s time. The arrangements and agreements may limit the child’s ability to choose alternative options even as it gets older. Custody and access arrangements including child support are revisable over time so it’s critical that you speak with your lawyer, or contact me for help.

You should also read the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA). In Canada, it is provincial legislation that primarily deals with issues related to family law, particularly those concerning the parentage and custody of children. It outlines the legal aspects and considerations that courts must take into account when making decisions about the custody and access of children.

The Act emphasizes the best interests of the child in such decisions, considering factors like the child’s emotional ties, preferences (depending on age and maturity), and the child’s overall well-being.

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