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Can the child have a say in determining the custodial parent?

In a California family law case, there are many considerations when child custody and support is determined. This process can be contentious and lead to acrimony between the parties. The court will factor in many issues when deciding on the custodial parent and assessing how visitation should be allocated. One part of a case that is the foundation for dispute is if the child can have a say in the custody arrangement or if the child can speak up and be heard when there is a request for an agreement modification. For those who are involved in this type of situation, understanding the law is a must.

The court will decide if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to provide testimony regarding preferences in custody and visitation. Once the child has been deemed mature enough and old enough, then the child’s wishes will be considered. If the child will be put under examination in the case, the court will control it to coincide with the child’s best interests. For children 14 or older wishing to speak out about custody or visitation, it will be allowed except in cases in which the court decides that it does not fit in with the child’s best interests. The court will give its reasons for making that determination.

Children who are younger than 14 can address the court if it is found to be in the child’s best interests. When the court decides that the child cannot be called to the witness stand, it can provide other ways to get the child’s input and other information as to the child’s desires. There can be counsel, evaluation, investigation or mediation from qualified individuals to give recommendations as to the child’s capacity to express preferences. The child is not required to express preferences.

Deciding on custody, addressing visitation and forming a workable parenting plan are some of the most complex parts of a divorce. Modifying these issues can also be difficult. The child is frequently viewed as a background player in this process, but can be heard if the court decides that it is appropriate to determine child custody and support.

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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law
520 Warren Street
Redwood City, CA 94063

Phone: 650-381-9591
Fax: 650-261-9650
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