Children 14 years of age and older can express their preference concerning who has physical custody in California. In some cases, the court will also consider the preference of younger children. It is important to note, however, that the child is simply sharing their preference; they do not have the final say in choosing their custodial parent.
The court will not allow a child to be in the custody of an unfit or unsuitable parent. While the child’s preference is a factor in their custodial determination, there are other factors that will affect which parent a child lives with, including the best interest of the child.
Factors That Affect the Best Interest of the Child
The best interest of the child is the court’s primary concern in custody cases. The court will consider the following factors in determining the child’s best interest.
- The child’s health, safety, and welfare
- Each parent’s history concerning domestic abuse, alcoholism, or criminal arrests (as well as any allegations of abuse or addiction)
- The child’s relationship and contact with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a continued relationship and contact between the child and the other parent
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- Any other factor the court considers relevant
Parents often worry that their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation will affect the court’s determination. However, courts are prohibited from factoring a parent’s:
- gender expression,
- sexual orientation, or
- gender identity in their determination of the child’s best interest.
Modifying Child Custody Because of Your Child’s Preference
If you already have child custody orders in place, your child may still express a preference to change custodial parents. While this can be shocking, you should encourage them to be honest and open about their preference and consider discussing it with the other parent. Even if you do not intend to modify your arrangement, your child can benefit from being heard.
If you are both in agreement with modifying your existing orders, you can file a modification request. In most cases where parents agree, the judge will approve the new custody or time-sharing plan.
Consult with Our Firm
With over 45 years of legal experience, the attorneys at The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc are known for providing compassionate counsel and for protecting their client’s interests. If you or a loved one are involved in a child custody case, our attorney can help you make informed case decisions and understand what factors, including your child’s preference, will affect the court’s determination.
To learn more about our services, call (949) 577-7935 or complete our online form to schedule an initial case consultation.