If you are in the process of divorce or have been divorced and your child is getting older, you may be wondering at what age your child will be allowed to have a say in custody. In California, your child will be heard at age 14 or older with regard to who he or she would prefer to live with. According to Family Code 3042, a child “of sufficient age” at 14 or older may address the court if they so wish, and his or her preference should be given due weight in determining child custody unless the court finds it not in the best interest of the child to do so. If your child wishes to speak in court during your divorce, or has come of age and wishes to change the custody arrangement, you need the legal guidance of an experienced San Diego child custody attorney from our team at Cage & Miles, LLP.
Determining Best Interest
Don’t worry if you think your child is not mature enough for such serious decisions, just because a child expresses preferences, it doesn’t mean that all logic goes out the window. California judges weigh the child’s preferences along with the best interest of the child to ultimately come to a decision. If your child is using the chance to state a preference to avoid living with the stricter parent or to have more freedom, the judge will most likely recognize that and take it into consideration.
The judge will bas the decision upon the following factors:
Parental abuse or neglect
Parent’s ability to properly care for the child
Bond between child and parent
Pressure from one or the other parent to choose
Child’s desire to escape discipline
Parent’s time spent away from the home
Once all factors are considered, the judge will determine visitation, split custody, or even court ordered counseling as be part of the plan, with the goal of reunification of the child with one or both parents. These measures are meant to help the child and parent rebuild their relationship, or developed a currently non-existent relationship, as the child will benefit from having both parents in his or her life. (Unless one or both parents is unfit.) It is the judge’s duty to weigh all elements in a divorce to place the child in a position for a bright, successful future, no matter what the preferences are at age 14.
If you want to discuss child custody and divorce, or you believe your child needs legal representation, let our team provide the experienced counsel your circumstances deserve. Our San Diego child custody lawyers can help you determine what the best option is for your family, and can move forward by your side as representation, with child custody decisions. We understand that your child deserves to be heard, but also that the safety, health, and best interest of the child are the most important factors in determining custody.