At What Age Can a Child Choose Which Parent to Live With?
Child custody agreements can be established between co-parents to determine each parent's rights and responsibilities. However, it’s quite common for divorced couples or non-married parents to disagree over the terms of their child custody arrangement. In these contested custody cases, the court will award child custody based on the best interests and welfare of the child. Among the factors often considered when awarding custody is the child's reasonable preference, depending on their age and maturity.
In California, once a child turns 14, the court recognizes their ability to form and express individual and reasonable opinions. However, your child’s preference is one of many factors that will be considered by the magistrate assigned to your case.
At The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah, I'm dedicated to offering comprehensive legal guidance and advocacy to clients in family law and child custody-related matters. I'm available to discuss your family’s unique situation and help determine if your child’s preferences can play a factor in your child custody arrangement.
Child Custody in California
Child custody is among the crucial family law issues that must be resolved before divorce can be finalized. When the divorcing or separating parents are unable to reach a mutually-agreeable custody arrangement, they may turn to the California family court. The following are some available custody options in the state of California:
Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody
Sole Custody: In sole custody, the judge will award both legal and physical custody to a single parent. California courts usually award sole custody in cases where the child's other parent is considered unfit to raise the child due to drug use, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, or financial hardship.
Joint Custody: Conversely, the parents may be required to share both legal and physical custody through a joint custody order. Here, the court will need both parties to work together to create a parenting time schedule and also participate in making important life decisions about their child.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
Physical Custody: Physical custody involves the duties and responsibilities of caring for a child physically. The parent with physical custody will cater to the child's accommodation, personal hygiene, meals, going to school, and other daily activities.
Legal Custody: Legal custody involves the rights and responsibility of the parent to make vital decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. Parents with legal custody will make decisions about major life issues that affect the child, such as healthcare, education, joining the military, religion, travel, discipline, and extracurricular activities.
How is Custody Determined in California?
As mentioned earlier, in a contested custody case, the court will award custody based on the best interest and welfare of the child. The following factors are often considered to determine child custody in California:
The child's safety, health, and welfare.
The nature and amount of contact with both parents.
Each parent's physical and mental condition.
Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect towards the child or the other parent.
Whether either parent has a history of illicit drug use, substance abuse, or alcohol use.
Any other factor deemed relevant by the court.
A seasoned California child custody attorney can review every aspect of your unique situation and enlighten you about how your child's reasonable preference can affect custody decisions.
Is a Child's Preference Considered?
As previously mentioned, the child's reasonable parental preference is among the factors that are usually considered by the California court when awarding custody. However, such a child must be at least 14 years old and mature enough before the court can take their preference into consideration.
It’s important to reiterate that your child’s opinion, though important, is not a trump card by any means. Even when your child is old enough for their preference to be considered, and even if they express their preference clearly, their opinion is one of many factors the court has to evaluate when making their ultimate decision.
If you have concerns regarding your child custody arrangement, please don’t hesitate to consult a family law attorney in your area.
Seek Trusted Legal Counsel
Child custody is among the most contentious divorce issues, and it is often fiercely contested. However, depending on the child's age and maturity, the court may be able to take their preference into consideration when awarding custody.
A family law attorney can help you explore your legal options and navigate crucial decisions regarding your custody agreement and visitation schedules. As your attorney, I will evaluate your unique situation and advise you according to your and your children’s best interests.
Contact me today at The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah to schedule a consultation with a practiced child custody lawyer. I can offer you the reliable advocacy and personalized legal counsel you need to make informed decisions in your child custody and family law matters. My firm proudly serves clients across Sacramento, Yolo County, Eldorado County, Placer County, Alameda County, Solano County, and San Joaquin County, California.