When Can Your Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

When Can Your Child Decide Which Parent to Live With

When Can Your Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Divorces and separations are challenging for everyone, but they often have a unique impact on the children who are involved. Every state has different guidelines surrounding the preferences of a child in court and when they can be honored. Whether the relationship between a child and one of their parents is broken or a child truly wishes to live with the other parent, you may be wondering when your kids are legally allowed to choose where to live.

At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With in California?

Because child custody orders are legally binding contracts between two parents, a child does not have the legal right to go against a custody order that is in place. In California, a child is not allowed to choose where they live until they are at least 18 years of age. This means that a parent has to do everything in their power to ensure that their child sees their other parent when they are supposed to. However, this can be extremely difficult when your child does not want to go to their other parent’s home or they are asking for a different custody situation.

Your Child’s Preferences in a Custody Case

Although your child is not able to legally choose their living situation, their preferences can impact a child custody order in certain circumstances. Whether you’re going through a divorce currently or you’re attempting to modify an order that is already active, a judge will consider the preferences of a child when they are mature enough to be able to make intelligent decisions on serious issues. This is generally considered to be the age of 14. While your child’s preferences are not the deciding factor in a custody case, they can affect the final ruling.

Other factors that may impact a judge’s child custody decision include:

  • The child’s interests
  • The age of the child
  • Relationships between each parent and the child
  • The health of the child and each parent
  • Each parent’s income
  • The ability of each parent to spend time with their child
  • History or suspicions of abuse or domestic violence

What Are the Interests of a Child?

California takes a great deal of precautions to ensure that children are protected during a divorce. One of the most important guidelines that all judges are required to follow involves considering a child’s interests when making their rulings. This is considered to be what a judge believes is ideal for their overall health, welfare, and general safety. This means that, even if a child is old enough to voice their preferences, a judge may not grant their wishes if they believe that they are not beneficial for the child. However, a judge also has the power to make modifications to child custody orders if they believe that the current order is negatively impacting the child.

Is It Possible to Change a Child Custody Order in California?

Parents are able to make modifications to child custody orders in one of two ways:

  1. Both Parents Come to an Agreement: California offers separated parents the chance to make modifications to their custody orders if they are able to draft and agree on new terms. However, the new terms will not be implemented if one spouse disagrees or the judge sees them as unfair.
  2. One Parent Petitions for Modifications From the Court: If you believe that your current custody situation is detrimental to your child or puts them in danger, you may be able to request a modification to your child custody order in California. While modifications are not always granted, an order can be changed if the disputing parent can prove that their child is suffering in some way.

Important Factors That Influence Child Custody Determination in California


Q: What Is a Parenting Plan?

A: A parenting plan is an agreement between two parents that discusses child custody and visitation rights. Your parenting plan is designed to outline varying details of your custody agreement and the unique responsibilities that must be taken on to care for your children. Many parents create fixed schedules to help avoid future issues and keep things as fair as possible. A parenting plan can include visitation schedules, parenting time requirements, childcare responsibilities, and more.

Q: What Happens If Your Child Refuses to Go to Their Other Parent’s Home?

A: Unfortunately, your child does not have much of a say in whether they will go to their other parent’s house. This is due to the legal aspects of a child custody order, which require each parent to share time with their child according to strict terms. If a parent fails to deliver their child, or cannot get them to cooperate, they can even face penalties from the court for failing to meet their custody order’s terms.

Q: What Exactly Is Visitation in California?

A: The term “visitation,” which is now frequently referred to as parenting time, is used to describe a noncustodial parent’s right to see their child. Visitation rights are commonly granted in cases of sole custody, where one parent has the primary right to have the child live with them and the other can see them occasionally. Parenting time is considered to be a limited type of custody, where a parent has to follow strict terms and schedules to be able to spend time with their child.

Q: Can a Lawyer Help You Change a Custody Order?

A: Our family attorneys can assist you in drafting new terms for a potential custody agreement with your spouse. We can also help you petition in family court for a new one. Our vast experience in California family law allows us to represent you in contested cases while offering legal support for you and your child.

Legal Aid for Child Custody Cases in San Diego

If you know that your child is struggling with your current custody order, it can be hard to watch them have to follow it. At Bickford Blado & Botros, we understand that your children are your main priority. That’s why we offer family law services that can help you adjust your child custody order and help your kids feel more comfortable. Contact Bickford Blado & Botros to discuss your custody needs today.



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