When parents get divorced with toddlers or babies, they decide — sometimes with the help of the court — where the children are going to live. However, this can change as the children grow older, and it can be a completely different experience when parents split up with children who are already of school age.
Overall, the goal for you and the court should be doing whatever is in the best interests of the children. If that means they live predominantly with the other parent, so be it. You want to make their lives as good as you can, even if that does not give you exactly what you want. It’s important to put them first.
Remember that the court already sees it this way. When they rule, they think about the child’s best interests first and what the parents want second. Getting on the same page as the court can help things go smoothly.
One key age to look at in California is 14. This is when children legally have a say in where they live. That does not mean they make the decision alone, but they get to speak out and contribute to the discussion. This is big because the child’s desires may help to define what is in their best interests.
If children are younger than 14, they may have some input. However, the court is cautious about using this information too heavily. Young children may not know what they want, may not understand what is best for them or may have been coached by the parents to say something specific.
As far as the child’s best interests are concerned, it’s wise to consider stability. What home helps their lifestyle the most? Remember, as children move into their teen years, they form stronger bonds with friends, they have more homework, they get involved with clubs and sports teams, and much more. It’s not hard to move a 2-year-old back and forth from one house to the other, but it’s a more involved process for a 16-year-old.
Furthermore, children at this age are turning into adults, even when it’s hard for their parents to look at them that way. They want to make decisions. They want to have a say in their own lives. Giving them some power to influence the child custody situation can help to give them the life they want and keep them from feeling resentful.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into this process. While moving forward with your custody case or divorce case, make sure you know exactly what steps to take and what parental rights you have.