The Court shall apply statutory guidelines when evaluating requests related to child custody and visitation. The first consideration in all custody cases is the child’s best interest followed by ensuring frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, the court may also take into consideration other factors such as the child’s preference.
Typically, children under the age of 18 years do not have a right to choose where they live because that right is vested in his or her parents. But when a family dissolves and parents move into separate residence, a child’s participation in the dispute may be considered if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference regarding custody. If a child is 14 years or older and desires to address the court, a court must receive that testimony so long as it is in the best interest of the child. However, age alone is not determinative and children under age 14 may also be allowed to testify at the discretion of the court after evaluating the child’s sincerity, bearing and degree of maturity.
The court has control over how a child’s preference is introduced and its primary objective is to protect the best interests of the child during the examination of a child witness. With that said, the court may elect an alternative means of obtaining input from a child such as the appointment of minor’s counsel or other professional.
Whether or not a judge will consider a child’s preference is decided on a case-by-case basis. The court must weigh the child’s desire to participate in the proceeding against other important factors. Contact the Law Office of Shannon R. Loeser for a consultation to discuss your legal options if you are facing a contested child custody and visitation issue.
Shannon R. Loeser, Esq.
Certified Family Law Specialist
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 520
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: (949) 392-5050