When you divorce in California, you have the option of creating your own parenting plan with your spouse. If you can’t agree with each other about the best way to split your parental rights and responsibilities, then a California judge may ultimately have to make decisions about parenting time and other responsibilities.
In contested custody proceedings, sometimes the children themselves can make a statement about their personal preferences. When will a child’s wishes have an influence on a California custody order?
Both age and maturity matter
California law has two provisions for when a child can influence custody decisions that relate to their care. Specifically, one states that children who have reached the age of 14 may have the right to speak to the court about their preferences regarding custody and visitation unless the courts think it would not be in their best interests.
The other provision states that children of sufficient maturity could potentially also express an opinion. If the judge agrees that a younger child is mature enough to make a rational decision about where they live, the judge may allow that preference to influence the decision that they make.
Of course, a judge must still prioritize what is best for the children, so they won’t necessarily let the child dictate the terms of the custody arrangement. Instead, they may give more authority or parenting time to the person that the child is closer to. Even that isn’t a given, as the judge will consider the possible influence of both parents on how the children behave in court.
Shared custody is still the likely outcome even if a child prefers strongly to live solely with one parent. Understanding the most likely outcome in a California custody case can help you prepare for shared custody.