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When Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

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At what age can a child decide which parent to live with in California?

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 the custody arrangement.

In California, your child's preference 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 the child custody arrangement 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 the child's best interests

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 preference along with the best interest of the child to ultimately come to a decision about physical and legal custody.

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 for the custody order.


The judge will base the physical custody 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

  • Parental alienation

  • Child’s desire to escape discipline

  • Parent’s time spent away from the home

When would a judge go against the child's wishes in the custody arrangement?

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Once all factors are considered, the family law judge will determine visitation, split physical custody, or even court-ordered counseling to 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 develop a currently non-existent relationship, as the child will benefit from having both parents in his or her life. (Unless one or both parents are unfit.)

It is the judge’s duty to weigh all elements in a child custody case to place the child in a position for a bright, successful future, no matter what the child's preference is at age 14.

Request a free child custody consultation

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.

Contact our team to discuss your child custody case at (858) 943-2060.


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