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Can A Child Express a Preference in Custody after a Divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2019 | Child Custody and Visitation

Can a child express a preference in custody after a divorce in North County or North County San Diego?  When will the Court listen to the wishes of a minor child and how does the Court help to protect against parental alienation?

We are often asked about the age at which a child can express a preference for a parent after a divorce.  The Family Law Courts here in Carlsbad are expressly interested in the best interests of each and every child.  California family law is also quite clear on the matter.  The over-riding principle in all child custody and parenting time cases is “the best interest of the child.”

However, if a child “is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.”

Generally speaking, if a child is 14 years of age or older the Court must listen to the preference of the child, unless it is not the Court’s belief that the expressed interest of the child is actually in the child’s best interests.  If so, the court must state its reasoning for their finding on the record.

One example of a reason not to agree with the wishes of a child above the age of 14 is “parental alienation.”  California law understands the impact of parental alienation and it is possible to prove the child has been influenced by the words, actions and attitudes of a former spouse.  Witnesses including therapists, family members, close friends, tutors or caretakers may be heard.  The Court will carefully weigh the child’s expressed interests in every case seeking what is genuinely in the best interest of the child.

If you are wondering “Can a child express a preference in custody after a divorce?” or are worried about parental alienation or post-decree child custody issues we invite you to review the strong recommendations of our clients and the legal industry and contact Burke & Domercq or call 760-389-3927 to schedule an appointment.  Learn more about how to protect your interests and your time with each child.