Divorce is an emotional process and if it involves children, it can drive emotions to a whole new level. To address this, everyone in the family must communicate and be open about their thoughts and feelings, including children. But can a child’s wishes affect the court’s decision on custody and the parenting plan?
A child’s preference is not on California’s list of factors
The courts encourage parents to agree on a parenting plan, especially since they know their schedules and the circumstances surrounding their children’s lives better. But in case parents cannot agree, California provides a list of factors that judges may consider when deciding on child custody and parenting plan. This includes the following factors:
- The child’s age and health condition
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s connection to their home, school and community
- History of domestic violence
- History of or ongoing substance abuse
As one can tell, the list consists of multiple factors, but a child’s preference is not one of them. Does this mean the child’s wishes do not hold any weight in court?
The list is not absolute
Ultimately, courts review all relevant factors and decide based on what would be best for the child. This means that judges can consider circumstances outside of the list if it affects the child’s well-being, whether currently or in the future. So, if it shows the child’s preference on who they want to stay with primarily and how they want the visits to go, then the judge can consider and give due weight to the child’s wishes.
However, while California family courts do not require a child to be of a certain age before judges can consider their preference, the child must be mature enough to support their preference intelligently and reasonably.
Waiting for child custody and parent plan orders can be excruciating for parents. But understanding that the courts will decide based on what’s best for the child can alleviate that worry. Reaching out to a legal professional can also help you understand the process better.