Can a Child Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With After a Los Angeles Divorce?
At the Land Legal Group, our Los Angeles divorce attorney understands how important your children are, and how each decision you and your spouse make during your divorce proceedings affect their everyday lives.
When there are minors to consider during your divorce, child custody and child support decisions become a focal point of your marriage’s dissolution. Often, parents believe their children can make their own decisions regarding their new lives, including which parent they live with or how they spend their weekends, vacations, or even time after school.
While some parents are willing to compromise, based on what their children tell them — including where they want to live — the State of California Family Code 3042 states a child “of sufficient age,” which is listed at the age of 14 or older.
So, what does that mean for divorcing parents in Los Angeles County?
That does not necessarily mean your teenager can decide, unequivocally, where he or she lives.
The Many Factors That Determine Child Custody Decisions After a California Divorce
When parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement on their own, or between their Los Angeles family law attorneys, the California courts will make custody determinations for them.
That means, if you and your spouse cannot create a parenting plan on your own, the court will intervene. If your child or children are of age, the court may consider and weigh their ability to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation.
The factors taken into consideration by the judge can include, but are not limited to:
- Each parent’s ability to be a fit parent and properly care for the child
- The stability of each parent’s household
- Each parent’s history of caregiving and overall bond with the child
- Which parent is more likely to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The child’s health and safety
- Where the child’s siblings live, when applicable
- Either parent’s history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- Either parent’s use of drugs or alcohol
- Either parent’s time spent away from the home
- Whether either parent has made a false allegation against the other parent to gain a custodial advantage
In the State of California, the family courts encourage both parents to play active roles in the lives of their children, and their custodial decisions will reflect the importance of advancing a complete connection with both parents.
After weighing each factor on its merit, the judge will determine the legal rights, physical custody, visitation agreements, and the child support figure that is required to ensure their well-being going forward.
Do Children Have to Testify About Their Custodial Preferences in Court?
No judge will ever force a child to testify in court if the child doesn’t wish to do so.
If the child does testify in court, the judge can limit the questions that the Los Angeles family law attorneys ask to make sure the child is protected from embarrassment or harassment.
If the child does not testify in court about his or her custodial preference, the judge can appoint a third-party, including a counselor or child advocate, to speak with the child and then testify in court about the child’s preference.
Likewise, the judge may speak with the child directly behind closed doors, in his or her chambers, so the parents are not there to sway their responses. Unless the parents agree that the judge can speak with the child alone, attorneys and court staff must be present to record the conversation and protect the rights of the children.
Even if you have children who are of an age to have their custodial testimony considered, that does not mean their statements willfully dictate the judge’s order.
Dozens of factors must be considered to ensure the safety and well-being of your children is at the forefront of the custody decision.
Contact Our Los Angeles Child Custody Attorneys at the Land Legal Group Today
If you have children and are considering a divorce, contact our Los Angeles family law attorneys at the Land Legal Group to discuss the details of your case today during a free consultation by calling (310)552-3500 We will explain each aspect of our child custody laws while building and pursuing a strategic case that allows you to keep your kids where they belong: with you.