Children’s Preferences for Custody
La Jolla, CA— When parents divorce, a great source of anxiety for the children in this situation is how their lives will change. Everything from parental attendance of PTA meetings, to how their parents will handle coming to their sports events, to who they will have to live with—become potential conflict landmines.
Today, most divorces involving children result in joint custody, with children travelling between two households on a regular basis. However, when parents live in different towns or when parental work schedules do not allow for equal parenting time, the judge will award one parent the custodial role, which involves more time with the children, as well as more day to day decision making.
Parents and children often worry about exactly how the court arrives at this decision. The family court system seeks to do what is best for the child, serving their best interests. But, how is that determined? Can the child ever advocate for themselves?
Child Custody Decision Process in California
Many factors are evaluated by the family court before a custody determination is made. These include:
- The financial status of each parent
- The parent-child relationship with father and mother
- Where is the child’s life integrated (school, community)?
- Work schedules of each parent and compatibility with being available for child
- Family situation (married, single, etc.)
- Emotional and psychological stability of the parents
- And other additional factors
Additionally, in the state of California, Family Code Section 3042 allows a child aged 14 or older to make his or her preference as to which parent they wish to live with–heard in court. It may be determined by the judge, even if your child is of age–that they cannot testify due to individual circumstances. Yet, if the court deems it important to investigate further into which custodial or visitation arrangement is best, an evaluator will be appointed to you.
What if My Child is Not Old Enough To Testify But Needs to Be Heard?
Sometimes a parent may ask for the child’s preference to be heard, or the court itself may feel that either of the parents are presenting an inaccurate picture as to what is in the best interests of the child. In such cases, the judge may appoint an Independent Child Lawyer or Child Advocate. This professional will observe in more detail the life situation of the child, their disposition towards each parent, etc. They will be able to speak with the child as well to determine how to proceed. Findings from these observations will be related to the court for the most appropriate decision to be made.
Things to Remember
- Having a child decide or testify in court is not always wise. Children can become distressed about having to make big, life-altering decisions.
- Manipulating the child into choosing one parent over the other for their own good is a form of psychological abuse that damages trust and muddles the judgement of the court
Griffith, Young, and Lass are trusted family law attorneys serving Carlsbad, La Jolla, and San Diego. We would love to advise you on any matters pertaining to child custody through a long-distance move, mediation, divorce, parenting agreement modification, and more. Give us a call at 1(858)367-3972 to schedule a consultation.
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