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The role of children in custody decisions here in California

If you are divorcing with minor children here in California, you may wonder what role the kids have — if any — in the custody decisions that you and their other parent are making. While the state has laws in place designed to shield kids from the harsher aspects of their parents' divorces, the state also provides a venue for older children to state their custody preferences.

It can be quite jarring and detrimental to the parent-child relationship to have children pick one parent over the other to live with the bulk of the time. But the courts also realize that this is a decision that affects nearly every aspect of a child's life and is one about which the child may feel very strongly.

With that in mind, if your child is 14 or older and you and their other parent cannot reach accord on the custody arrangements, it is indeed possible that the family law court may ask if your child has a preference. Whether the court will allow that preference to determine the custody agreement is another factor, however.

The courts are aware that a child may choose the parent who is most lenient with them. They realize, too, that kids make bad decisions all the time. But they also will listen to your child and possible weigh their preferences as they deliberate their decision.

Parents can facilitate the process by encouraging their kids to speak their minds without any parental repercussions. Yes, it could hurt your feelings to learn that your child would prefer to live with their other parent. But rather than getting upset, really listen to your child so that you understand why that is so. It can be a very enlightening moment that could ultimately bring the two of you closer together.

Together with your attorney, you can work to achieve the best custody arrangements for your minor children.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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