California child custody law allows any child old enough to have a reasonable opinion the opportunity to express preference in child custody cases. When is a child old enough?
The definition of “sufficient age and capacity to reason” varies. Some 8-year-olds are mature enough to make a decision, while some 13-year-olds are not. However, all children 14 and older may address the court if a judge does not make a specific finding that addressing the court would not be in the child's best interest. Younger children may address the court if a judge finds that doing so would be in the child’s best interest.
- Once a judge has determined that it would be in a child's best interest to address the court, there are a number of ways that the child can let the court know about custody preference.
- The child can talk to a family court mediator or counselor. The mediator or counselor will provide a written report to both parents and to the judge.
- The child can talk to a child custody evaluator. The child’s wishes will be included in the Child Custody Evaluation Report.
- The court may appoint an attorney to represent the child. The minor’s counsel will talk to the child, determine his or her preference, and represent the child’s interests in court
- The judge may interview the child in the judge’s chambers. A court reporter will be present to record the conversation. Parents can request the record.
- The child can testify from the witness stand.
How much does child preference matter? It depends on the situation and the child. A 16-year-old who makes straight A’s and volunteers will be considered more likely to have a sound preference than a 14-year-old with a history of delinquency.
If you want your child to testify in your California child custody hearing, you should let your San Francisco divorce attorney know. Your attorney will make arrangements with the court.
The San Francisco child custody lawyers at The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan are dedicated to helping families find a child custody solution that works. To schedule an appointment, call us at 415-341-1144