California child custody disputes can easily become contentious, with the parents each seeking sole custody and maximum parenting time. While the child is at the center of the dispute, children can frequently have their own desires glossed over or outright ignored.
There are times, however, where the child might be granted a say.
State law is specific as to when courts give weight to the child’s desires. Parents must be aware of the ramifications.
What the law says about a child’s wishes in custody
California law allows the court to consider the child’s preferences. Not every child can do so. They will be assessed to decide if they are of sufficient age and can give viable reasons to express how they want custody and parenting time to be arranged.
As with any child-related matter in family law, the court will focus on the child’s best interests.
Age is a key aspect of the court letting a child be heard. If they are at least 14, it will be allowed provided it is in their best interest. When it decides that it is not in the child’s best interest, it must state its justifications for that.
Children under 14 might be allowed to speak. This is done on a case by case basis.
Some children have greater maturity than others and this will be essential to the court deciding on their right to speak about child custody.
When children are witnesses, the parties involved will not be present. This too is based on best interests. The parties being present could be considered as detrimental to the child and not allowed. There is no requirement for the child to address the court about their preferences.
Comprehensive assistance can be key in all family law cases
There are many factors that are part of the process when the court makes a child custody decision. The child may be allowed to take part in the determination.
The child might be closer to one parent than the other. There could be a housing situation where they want to remain in their childhood home, go to the same school and be near friends and relatives.
It could be for any reason and if the child can give a clear explanation, the court may take it into account. Since this is such a sensitive topic in a divorce, it is vital for parents to understand how to handle it. As with any family law case, having representation can be beneficial.