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How much does child preference influence custody and visitation?
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How much does child preference influence custody and visitation?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Child Custody

As a parent, your child’s wants and needs are routinely your top priority. However, it can be very difficult to balance and understand these in the context of a divorce. If you are ending your marriage, you should know whether and to what extent your child’s preferences will affect decisions like custody and visitation.

Children’s voices in court

In California, children’s preferences are indeed a factor in custody decisions, especially as they grow older. The state acknowledges that, typically around the age of 14, a child’s opinion may carry considerable weight, assuming the child can articulate a reasonable preference.

A child younger than 14 might participate in family court proceedings, but the impact of their preference will vary depending on their age and maturity. Judges assess the child’s level of understanding and ensure that their preference is not the result of influence or pressure from either parent.

Other key factors in custody decisions

While a child’s preference is meaningful, it is one of many factors that affect custody and visitation arrangements. Thus, orders may not always align with the child’s wishes if the court deems other factors more critical to the child’s well-being.

Other primary factors that judges typically consider include:

  • Existing parental relationships with the child
  • The health, safety and welfare of the child
  • Any history of family abuse or substance abuse
  • The ability and willingness of parents to work together
  • The continuity and stability of the child’s current living situation

These elements, among others, form a complex tapestry that the court must consider in order to serve the child’s best interests.

Getting a child’s input outside of court

A child does not need to testify in court for their voice to play a role in the outcomes. Parents can often avoid court altogether by resolving legal matters through approaches like mediation.

In these cases, parents can talk to their kids on their own or with the help of a counselor. Speaking with them and listening to their thoughts and worries can help parents create their own custody and visitation agreements that all parties can feel comfortable with.