Can My Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?

Tue 12th May, 2020 Family Law

Decisions about child custody and visitation are often some of the most complex and emotionally fraught choices in a California divorce. Not only do the wishes of the parent matter, but at a certain age the child may have a preference for custody and visitation, as well. In certain circumstances, the family court may take a child’s preference into consideration when determining their custody and visitation case. To learn more about when your child can choose which parent to live with after a divorce, call the office or contact us today in Beverly Hills at the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler to schedule a free consultation of your case.

When Can a Child Express a Preference?

The California courts always encourage the parents in a divorce to come to an agreement regarding the custody and visitation of their child, but if the parents cannot agree, the courts will make the final determination. The judge in the case must weigh a number of factors to decide what outcome is in the child’s best interests, and one of those factors can be the child’s preference. Under California law, the courts must consider the child’s preference if the child is of a sufficient age and able to voice an intelligent opinion on the matter of custody and visitation.

If the child is 14 years old or older, they will always be allowed to voice a preference to the court on custodial matters. A child under the age of 14 may be allowed to voice a preference on custody preference, but the judge must determine that they are intelligent and mature enough to do so. There is no set minimum age where a judge cannot find that the child is intelligent enough to voice a preference, and in some cases, a child as young as 7 or 8 has given testimony on their custody and visitation preferences; however, more weight is typically given to the opinions of older children when weighing the factors of what is in their best interests. The reasoning behind the decision may also impact the weight given to the child’s preference. For example, if a child chooses one parent because they are less strict, the judge might give their preference less weight.

Where Does a Child Voice Their Preference?

The judge in your case will determine where the child may give their preference to the court. In some cases, the child is sworn under oath and testifies to their custodial preference in court. However, that is not the only option. If a child is uncomfortable voicing their opinion in court, the judge may appoint an evaluator or mediator to speak with the child outside of court to get their custodial preference. In addition, the judge may take the child back into their chambers in order to have a private conversation and learn their custodial preferences that way. Finally, in cases in which a guardian ad litem has been appointed, that person may give the court the child’s preferences on their behalf.

Call or Contact Us

To learn more about when your child can give preference in their custodial matters, call or contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler today.