California Child Custody: The Role of a Child’s Preference

Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi A Professional Law Corporation Child Custody

When parents divorce or separate, child custody is typically among the most challenging issues they must address. In California, family courts strive to make determinations about child custody that account for the best interests of the child.

However, in some cases, a child’s own preferences may be considered in determining custody. This overview will explain in greater detail when a child’s preferences can and can’t influence the outcome of child custody proceedings.

Is a Child’s Preference a Factor in a California Child Custody Case?

California law allows children to have a voice in custody proceedings, but the weight given to a child’s preferences depends on several factors, including the child’s age, maturity, and ability to express themselves. In California, there is no set age at which a child can decide which parent they want to live with, but generally, a child’s preference is given more weight as they get older and more mature.

The Court’s Consideration of the Child’s Preference

When a child’s preference is considered in custody proceedings, the court will take several factors into account, including:

  • Age and Maturity: The court will consider the child’s age and maturity in determining how much weight to give their preference. Generally, older children who are more mature and capable of expressing their wishes clearly will have their preferences given more weight.
  • Stability: The court will consider the stability of the child’s living situation with each parent and the impact that a change in custody would have on the child. Perhaps a child’s preference is rooted in the fact that they’ve grown accustomed to a certain living situation, and disrupting that situation would negatively affect them.

When a Child’s Preference Can’t Impact Custody?

While a child’s preference can be considered in custody proceedings, it is important to note that the court’s ultimate decision is based on the best interests of the child. There are several situations in which a child’s preference may not be given weight in determining custody:

  • Immaturity: If a child is too young or immature to express a clear preference, the court may not consider their preference in making a custody decision.
  • Coercion: If there is evidence that one parent has coerced or manipulated the child into expressing a preference, the court may not consider the child’s preference.
  • Safety: If the court determines that a child’s preference is not in their best interests, for example, if one parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, the court may not give weight to the child’s preference.
  • Parental Unfitness: If one parent is found to be unfit to care for the child, the court may not consider the child’s preference in determining custody.

Again, these are complex issues. Although this overview may have answered some of your basic questions about the degree to which a child’s preferences may impact the outcome of a child custody proceeding, for more specific information pertaining to your case, it’s best to discuss the topic with a qualified attorney. At the Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi, a Westlake Village child custody lawyer can help you navigate this area of your divorce with greater confidence. To learn more, contact us online or call us at 805-379-4550.

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