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Can a child choose who to live with in California?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2023 | Child Custody and Visitation

Dissolving a marriage that you have worked hard to build is difficult, more so when there is a child involved. This is especially true if both parents have been actively involved in the well-being of the child and have a strong emotional connection.

But when you and your spouse call it quits and the custody of your child becomes an issue, the court will step in and rule on a custody order that serves the best interests of the child. And this is where the question of the child’s opinion comes in.

What California law says about the child’s preference

Clearly, child custody is a big deal during the divorce. That said, California law allows a child of sufficient age to express their opinion on the parent they want to live with after the divorce. Importantly, the statute also specifies that the ultimate decision with respect to the child’s living arrangement is with the court.

14 years old and older

California law allows children aged 14 and older to address the family court regarding their custody and visitation preference as long as this is in their best interest. This means that if the child is deemed to be old enough and, thus, capable of forming reasonable thoughts about their custody and visitation preference, then the court can listen to and take their wishes into account when issuing a judgment.

Some of the reasons the child can choose to live with one parent over the other include:

  • Incidents of abuse and domestic violence by one parent
  • Parental neglect
  • Alcohol and substance abuse by one parent
  • The child’s close relationship with one parent
  • A parent’s mental state

Fighting for your child’s best interests

If you are dealing with a child custody issue, you need to protect your parental rights as well as your child’s best interests.