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When a child has a say in child custody determinations

As parents in California know, their children have many opinions on their upbringing and what they would like to do. This is especially true as the children become older. However, parents also know that a child's opinions may not always be in the child's best interest and overrule that opinion. However, it does not change the fact that the child still has preferences. This can be especially true if the parents are going through a divorce or child custody matter.

The child may have strong opinions about which parent they would like to live with or which parent should have custody. However, just like for other determinations, the child's opinion carries weight only when it is in the child's best interest. Generally though, if children are 14 years old or older they will be allowed to submit their opinion to the court. If the child is younger than 14, their opinion may be submitted only if the judge allows the child to submit their opinion. The judge also has the authority to direct the child's opinion to be submitted through another individual such as an evaluator, an investigator or a mediator.

Overall though the child's opinion is treated like all other evidence and will only be used to help determine what is in the best interests of the child. Just because a child, even one older than 14, wants to live with a particular parent, it does not necessarily mean that is what is going to happen. Child custody determinations are very fact specific and complicated and a number of factors are analyzed to make the determination.

Many parents in California are divorced or no longer together with the other parent. In many of these situations there will be a child custody order determining which parent has custody and when each parent will have parenting time. As they are very fact-specific though, each outcome will vary. Experienced attorneys understand this and understand how to apply the law to one's specific facts.

Source: California Legislature, "Family Code Division 8, Part 2, Chapter 2, 3042" accessed on June 20, 2017

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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