Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Prefer After a Divorce?

Child deciding which parent to live with after divorce in California

17 Nov Can a Child Decide Which Parent They Prefer After a Divorce?

One of the most difficult decisions that has to be made when a divorce is pending is what happens to the children. Child custody arrangements are often fraught with tension between the separating parents, although this isn’t always the case. The best outcome for children is when the two parents decide together on what is the best outcome for their children. Unless there has been a history of violence in the family directed to one of the spouses or to the children themselves, it is in the best interests of the children that they have access to both parents after the divorce.

Working out who the children live with, what the visiting arrangements should be, how to pay for all the needs the children will have over the years they are dependent on their parents, can all be too difficult for some parents to work out by themselves. In the event that there is an impasse, the best solution is to seek help from the Family Court.

The Family Court in California will look at the circumstances carefully and make a decision about child custody that is in the best interests of the children. This is a complicated and difficult process and it is unlikely that everyone is going to be satisfied with the decision.

Defining custody

In California there are two types of custody which have to be decided by the Court. There is legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody refers to the ordinary living arrangements of the children. That includes which parent they will live with most of the time and who will make most of the day to day decisions, such as what clothing they have, getting them to school on time, etc. Normally, physical custody is given to one parent, while the other one has visitation rights, but in some situations parents can share physical custody if that is the best option for the children.

Legal custody refers to who makes the important decisions about the children, such as education, health care, and religion. Usually, this is a joint responsibility.

Preferences of children

It makes sense that the children themselves should have some say over who they live with and see most of and also how much they want to see each parent. This is a very sensitive issue as children vary in their degree of emotional maturity and may even blame themselves for the divorce.

Each state has slightly different views on how much a child should be able to make their preferences known about custody decisions. In some states, the minimum age for making a preference known is 14 years. In other words, if one of the children is 14 or older, then their preferences are taken into account.

California does not make a definitive ruling about a child’s age and their preferences. It leaves this to the judge to decide in the best interests of the child. However, there is a general recognition that the older the child the more likely that they will have the ability to understand custody proceedings and make a useful contribution to any decision making.

Despite the lack of an age ruling, children who are 14 or older are allowed to address the court unless it is decided that this is not in their best interests.

When child custody decisions become difficult and communication breaks down or there is a conflict over custody that seems to be irreconcilable, it is worth contacting a family law attorney to discuss your legal options. Although the preferred solution is one that is reached independently by the two parents, it is recognized that this is not always possible.

A family law attorney can assess the circumstances and advise you of your legal rights and help represent you if you decide to take the custody dispute to Court. The Law Offices of Damian Nolan located in Long Beach and Lakewood California are available for all manner of family law matters. You can contact the office to make an appointment for a free consultation by phoning 562-634-1115.

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