While a California child custody case often focuses on the parents and their goals and desires when it comes to the determination of child custody, the children should not be ignored. It can be difficult to assess how much influence the child should have in deciding where he or she will live, what the visitation rights will be and numerous other issues. However, the law can consider what the child wants. Knowing how this is handled is key to a case.
The child's age and capacity are paramount when expressing a preference. The court will decide if the child is old enough and shows adequate maturity to have his or her desires accounted for. When a child is examined as a witness, the court will control the examination to serve the child's best interests. Children age 14 and older will be allowed to address the court if they want to. However, the court can decide that it is not in the best interests of the child and not allow it. The reasons for this finding will be stated.
There is no law that states a child who is younger than 14 cannot make a statement regarding custody and visitation if it is deemed appropriate. If a child is precluded from testifying, there will be another means of getting the child's input as to the preferences. There will be a mediator, an investigator or an evaluator who will give recommendations in the case as to the child expressing a position regarding child custody and visitation. The child will not be required to give a position or preference in the case. There will be guidelines as to the examination of a child witness in such a situation.
Whether it is a contentious child custody dispute, a relatively amicable one or anywhere in between, the best interests of the child is the most important factor. The child can have a say in the case if the circumstances warrant it. For parents, protecting the child is vital. Understanding how a child's testimony can affect a case should be understood from the start.
Source: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov, "Chapter 2. Matters To Be Considered in Granting Custody -- 3042.," accessed on May 7, 2018