When can a child express a preference in a child custody case?

| Jun 30, 2021 | Custody |

In a family law case in Torrance and throughout California, one of the most contentious issues that comes up is where the child or children will live. With these cases, the kids can end up trapped in the middle. This is true regardless of their age and whether they are toddlers all the way up to teenagers who are on the verge of adulthood. If parents are in the middle of an acrimonious back and forth as to how the child custody determination will be made, there are key facts to remember. Before letting the situation spiral out of control, the crucial part is to remember the children. If the child has an opinion on where her or she wants to live, it is important to know what the law says about how much gravity that should be given.

The child’s best interests and having a voice in the decision

The court will want the child to have a suitable environment, be provided with the necessities and, if possible, to have a positive relationship with both parents. These are aspects of the child’s best interests being served. For example, if one parent is having personal problems and is not deemed capable of providing a consistently stable home with food, shelter, clothing, medical care, attention and extracurricular activities, then the other parent might be granted custody because of it. This is one of the fundamental areas of child custody. Still, the child could have personal wishes and the court can decide to hear them and give them some weight.

Age and maturity are considered when the court decides if a child’s preference with child custody should be accounted for. In general, a child age 14 and up will have the chance to address the court about what he or she wants. The court can choose not to allow this if it is found to contradict the best interests. While 14 is the baseline age, a younger child may also be allowed to speak provided he or she is mature enough. The court can also choose not to let the child function as a witness in the case, but allow the child to provide input in another way regarding preferences. There can be an evaluator, an investigator or other professional to help with understanding the child’s position, analyzing the situation and giving information that the court can ponder.

Child’s input could be a factor in complex custody disputes

Parents want to make certain the child is protected at all costs no matter what they are going through as part of their family law case. That includes child custody. If the child would like to speak, it is imperative to understand what the law says about testimony with preferences for custody and visitation. For these complicated circumstances, it is useful to have experienced guidance from the outset. Consulting with professionals who are aware of the nuance of family law can be beneficial to protect the child while reaching an acceptable outcome.