Can Children Pick Who They Want to Live With?
Making the difficult decision to divorce is even harder when there are children involved. Separating parents may find that their custody battle causes the most grief and anxiety around what to do – both parents want to remain close with their children, but it’s more than likely that one parent will have to become the primary caregiver. Our Irvine family law attorneys have a lot of experience navigating this emotional proceeding and can help you and your family decide what’s best.
You might be wondering whether your children will have any say in the matter of their custody, and California does have specific guidelines regarding whether children have a right to play a role in these proceedings. This article will review what state laws say about whether or not children can express their preference in a custody hearing.
Custody Hearings and the Child’s Opinion
As you may already know, custody hearings in California do not favor one parent over the other because of gender. Instead, they will look to award custody to the parent who can best showcase that they have the time, energy, and resources to become their children’s primary caregiver. Usually, this will require evidence that the parent is safe, loving, and willing to care for their child and has a stable job, housing, and childcare support.
However, California courts will also allow children to state their peace on the matter when they meet the age requirement and can prove they have the ability to voice an opinion on the matter. In general, children who are at least 14 years old are able to state their custodial preference in court unless a judge rules that doing so would only make the case more difficult.
It’s important to note that California law allows children younger than 14 to voice their opinion on the matter, which is often done through a custody evaluator. Rather than having such a young child testify in court, the judge will order a professional examination of the child and their wishes in order to get a better sense of each parent and where the child feels most comfortable. This investigation will usually be conducted by either a mediator, a child therapist, or other such professional. The judge will heavily weigh the exact nature of the child’s preference, giving deference to statements that attest to that parent’s capability to raise a child over whether or not the child simply prefers them because they have a more relaxed parenting style.
Even if your child does express a preference, it’s important to remember that their preference won’t always be taken into account. Sometimes, adults can see what children can’t, and a preference for one parent doesn’t always mean that the child is better off in their care.
Navigate the Custody Hearing with Our Irvine Family Law Attorneys
Custody hearings are by far some of the most difficult aspects of a divorce, and our Irvine family law attorneys can be there for you every step of the way. Contact our offices today to get started.