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The power of a Family Court Judge – Do children get to decide who they live with in a divorce?

San Diego Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Paul Staley, released a new YouTube video: Do children get to decide who they live with in a divorce?

Kids and Custody in California: Do They Have a Say?

Kids and custody battles have been famously dramatized in movies, like the classic divorce  flick “Irreconcilable Differences”, starring Drew Barrymore.  However, it is a very real question that’s frequently asked by both parents and children.  Does a child’s parental preference factor in a custody arrangement?

Technically, the answer is both yes and no.  The following is a quick breakdown of how California handles what kids have to say!

Young Children vs. Teens

In California, a minor’s viewpoint on a custodial issue isn’t usually considered if they’re under of the age of 12.  Young children in typical divorce cases aren’t old enough to voice a strong preference for living with one parent over the other.  However, once they’ve hit their teen years, they’re more solid in their decision of where they want to be.  That’s where a minor’s preference has more weight in a custody issue.

Furthermore, your teen due to friends and activities naturally chose to spend less time with their parents the courts take that into consideration.  This is generally different for younger children, who’re naturally more eager to spend time with both of their parents.  Scheduled visitation hours, or set weekends with either parent, starts to diminish as a child ages.

How Does This Affect My Custody Arrangement?

Your teenager’s feelings and overall preferences can definitely affect your custody arrangements.  For the sake of an easier custody agreement, parents should make their child’s feelings and opinions on the matter a major priority.

Should one parent decide to move to a new location, a 16 year old can affect the arrangement by opting to stay in their current location with either mom or dad.

Therefore, the older your child is, the more they could potentially factor into your joint custody arrangements.

Transcript of Paul’s Video

Do children get to decide who they live with in a divorce?

It really varies quite a bit, but there are some pretty good guidelines on this. The older children — the more weight their preferences are going to be given. I would say until a child is at least 12 years old, probably no weight at all is going to be given to the preference of the minor child and I should explain that has to do with the fact that we don’t want the children embroiled in the process. We don’t want them feeling like they have either the responsibility or the authority to make that signifigant of a determination. But as they get into their teen years, and especially when they hit 15 and 16 — a 16 year old is going to stay where he or she wants. This kid’s gonna have a driver’s license and probably a car… And if Johnnie doesn’t why spend the weekend at dads, he’s just not gonna do it. So to answer the question whether the children have some input to the court, that again depends very much on the age and the maturity of the child.

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