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Do Children Get a Say in Which Parent Gets Custody?

When a couple with children gets divorced, there is more to consider than the dissolution of the marriage. Co-parenting and custody arrangements come into play. If the divorcing spouses can’t agree on custody and visitation, the court will decide after considering several factors. In some cases, one of those factors is the child’s preference.

Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

If a custody case must be resolved in court, the judge will weigh several factors to determine a solution in the child's best interest. Some elements that a judge will consider include:

• Parents’ caregiving history with the child

• Parental stability and capacity to be a fit parent

• The child’s safety and health

• Parental history of substance abuse, other types of abuse or domestic violence

• Where the child’s siblings live

• The child’s preference

Although the judge will consider the child’s preference, it is only one influence in a long list of essential dynamics. Judges must use discretion when weighing the child’s preference.

The reason for the child’s preference is also taken into account. For example, a child who wants to live with their mother because they don’t want to change school districts will be more persuasive than a child who wants to live with their father because their mother doesn’t allow them to play video games.

At What Age Can a Child Choose Who to Live With?

Ultimately, a child cannot be the sole decision-maker regarding their living situation until they’re 18. However, California courts are required to consider the custodial preference of a child who is at least 14 years old. However, this doesn’t mean that the judge will rule in favor of the child if there are other mitigating factors.

Children are not required to testify about custodial preference in court. However, if the judge wants the child’s input, they may use a mediator, guardian ad litem, or investigator to get information about the child’s opinion.

How Much Importance Is Placed on the Child’s Preference?

The child’s maturity is an important factor when it comes to custodial preference. Some younger children would prefer to stay with the parent who has more relaxed rules or a larger house than the other. When a child is mature enough to express valid reasons for staying with one parent or another, a judge is more likely to consider their opinion.

If you have questions about child custody and divorce, feel free to call us for a consultation at (909) 315-4588. Our San Bernardino attorneys understand the system's nuances and will help protect your parental rights and uphold your child’s best interests.