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Can Children Express Preference in California Child Custody Cases?

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Divorcing parents have to make countless difficult decisions, but the most difficult decision of all is determining child custody. Parents tend to have differing opinions on the subject of both custody and visitation. The child often wants to have a say in where they end up living but do California courts consider the child’s preference when determining custody?

In California, the court determines custody for children when the parents are not able to agree on a custody arrangement on their own. When determining child custody in California, the judge considers numerous factors:

History of caregiving for the child on the part of both parents

Each parents capabilities as a fit parent

The stability of each parent’s household

The child’s health and safety

Any history of abuse or domestic violence on the part of either parent

Any drug or alcohol use on the part of either parent

Whether or not the parents are likely to encourage the child to have a relationship with their other parent

Any false allegations of abuse that a parent makes against the other parent in an attempt to help their case

Any siblings of the child and where they reside

The preference of the child

Additional factors related to the child’s welfare

Does the Court Consider a Child’s Preference for Custody?

California courts are required to consider a child’s preference in child custody cases if the child is of “sufficient” age and ability to voice an intelligent opinion. If the child is 14 or older, they will be allowed to state their preference for custody to the court. Children under 14 are permitted to testify to their custody preference unless the court finds that doing so would not be in the child’s best interest. When the court decides it is not in the child’s best interest to testify, they can access alternate means of expressing their opinion on the matter such as through a third party or custody evaluator. The judge is not required to follow the child’s preference in making their decision.

If you still have questions about a child’s preference in California child custody cases, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with an experienced California family law attorney at The Maggio Law firm. We can help.



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