The end of a marriage can be particularly hard on the children in the family. Of course, any child involved will be emotionally invested in the outcome of the custody and visitation terms. Many parents wonder—how much say should their child get in the custody outcome? And is the court required to listen to the child's wishes?

Age Matters

In California, it used to be up to the judge to decide if the child was old enough to form an intelligent opinion regarding their preferences regarding the custodial parent and visitation. There was no set age.

The law changed in 2012 and now stipulates that for children aged 14 or older, the court is required to hear their wishes, but parents should know that the child's wishes alone are rarely the deciding factor. A child may say unreliable or contradictory things to each parent and the court.

Under the age of 14, the court is not required to hear the child’s preferences but may do so depending on the judge’s discretion.  

Children Are Often Unreliable Witnesses

What a child says is often unreliable, and what they say doesn't always match what they feel. Children will often say they don't want to spend time with the other parent to both parents. For example, when they are with mom, they'll say they don't like dad; when with dad, they'll say they don't like mom. Children naturally do not want to hurt their parents. 

Ultimately, it is up to the judge to hear various factors to put together a holistic picture of the custody situation.

Taking the High Road for the Best Outcome

Even in highly contentious divorces, it is best for both ex-spouses to encourage visitation with the other parent for the sake of the child’s best interest. The court looks favorably on parents who encourage frequent and continuous contact with the other parent, while the court looks unfavorably on parents who withhold.

Taking the high road and negotiating a co-parenting plan that you feel is fair and equitable is in everyone’s best interest.

Exceptions in Cases of Abuse or Danger to the Child

In cases where there is alleged abuse, the child may not always be willing or able to make a statement concerning the situation. In those cases, the court often relies on testimony from third parties concerning the child's welfare, such as teachers, doctors, or therapists, rather than place the child in the uncomfortable position of having to testify.

Park Family Law Can Help

To help you obtain the best custody/visitation plan for you and your child, call the attorneys at Park Family Law.

Whether you need an experienced mediator to amicably and efficiently settle your case or an aggressive litigator to get you the best results in court, Park Family Law can assist you every step of the way.