As California parents are probably well aware, children tend to want to make all of their decisions on their own. When it comes to their parents' divorce or breakup, though, children may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. A child might have strong preferences regarding who they want to live with, or a child might feel torn in two opposing directions, wanting to be with both parents even though that's no longer possible. It's helpful for parents who are divorcing or breaking up to know how California law allows children to voice their preferences regarding child custody.
Parents may find it reassuring to know that California courts make custody and visitation decisions in the best interests of the child. This means that a parent's own preference may at times not be as pivotal as the court's own finding of what is best for the child when it comes to decisions on custody and visitation. Typically, the child himself or herself is not considered able to make such a decision until they turn 18. However, in some instances, if the parents request that the court decide where the child will live, the judge might consider the preferences of the child even if that child is under 18.
The preferences of the child will be considered along with many other factors. Moreover, in considering the child's wishes, the judge is also likely to consider the child's reasoning for the preference and whether the child may have been coerced or manipulated into stating a certain preference. In addition, the judge may also review the overall stability of the parent the child wants to live with, as well as the child's own maturity and development.
Child custody can be an extremely difficult divorce topic, even for parents who may agree on the major custody and visitation decisions. Parents can find help through an Orange County child custody attorney. A family law attorney can offer guidance and strategy on maintaining the parent-child relationship through divorce and beyond.