In making any decision about a child the Court will take into account any views expressed by the child, but the weight the Court will give to the child's views will depend on any factors the Court thinks is relevant, such as the child's maturity and level of understanding.
There is no rule that says that children of a particular age can make independent decisions about where they may live. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that age does not necessarily always match maturity.
However, despite this a number of practical issues will invariably arise, particularly with children aged 16 and over. For example, a child of 17 years is unlikely to be able to be made to follow a parenting order about where they should live. In these circumstances, resorting to the Court to enforce an existing order may be a fruitless task.
See also, Parental Authority - Case Study which explains the decision in the Gillick case, a children's rights case regarding at what age children are mature enough to make decisions without their parents.
It should be noted that children do not give evidence to the Court, nor will the Judge ordinarily see or speak to the children. Rather, the children's wishes are ascertained via a family assessment, or through the appointment of an Independent Children's Lawyer.
It is important to bear in mind that children often express to each parent a wish to live with them, and that they may do so out of concern to maintain close contact with that parent and not to lose them from their lives, rather than with an adult understanding of the consequences.