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The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

Mom or Dad? Child Preference in California Child Custody

Mom wants custody of the children. Dad wants custody of the children. What do the children want? Does it matter?

When parents can’t agree upon who gets custody of the kids or how much time a child will spend with each parent, it’s up to a California family court judge to make the final decision. But any child who is old enough to have a reasonable opinion has the right to let the court know about his or her preference.

Since 2012, California child custody law allows children over the age of 14 the opportunity to testify in child custody proceedings, as long as a family court judge does not rule that testifying is not in their best interest. If a child is not allowed to testify, he or she must be given an alternate way to tell the court about custody preference. This may be through an interview with a counselor or mediator, a meeting with a court employee, or in writing.

What about children under the age of 14?

Any child of “sufficient age and capacity to reason” to make a decision regarding custody or visitation must be allowed to make his or her wishes known. A child under age 14 who wishes to address the court may do so, if a family law judge determines that allowing the child to testify is in the child’s best interests. If the child is not allowed to testify, the child should be given an alternate opportunity to express his or her custody preferences.

So what do you do if your child wants to address the court about child custody issues? Talk to your San Francisco child custody lawyer. He’ll make sure that your child’s preferences are expressed to the judge overseeing your case. 

Before 2012, child preference was not regularly taken into account. But there are some disadvantages to letting a child have a say in custody arrangements. If you are the parent of a preteen, you know that your child’s emotions are subject to whims. You are the favored parent because you bought her the dress she wanted for the eighth grade dance, but when you asked her to clean her room, she yelled that she’d rather live with Dad.

Family court judges understand. The judge must take all factors into account when determining child custody arrangements. It is the judge’s job to make a ruling in the best interest of the child, not to grant the child’s wishes.

The San Francisco child custody attorneys at The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan are dedicated to helping women find the best child custody solution for their family. To schedule an appointment, call us at 415-341-1144