“My child is 13, isn’t she old enough to choose which parent to live with?” is the type of question we hear frequently in divorces involving older children. As a matter of fact, some parents will even delay their divorce until their child is 12, 13, or 14, or the age the parent thinks the courts will let their child choose.
In California, there is no specific age which automatically lets a child choose which parent to live with during a divorce or child custody proceeding. It is actually a common misconception among parents nationwide that an older child has the power to choose which parent to live with. Because in reality, it doesn’t work that way.
As in many states, in California, only family court judges have the authority to decide which parent a child will live with, that is if child custody is contested. However, that does not mean the child’s wishes will be ignored. If it’s pretty even, a mature child’s wishes may tip the scales in that parent’s favor.
Judges Must Consider a Child’s Wishes
Under California law, when child custody is contested, judges are required to listen to the wishes of a child who is mature and intelligent enough to voice their preference about child custody. Since children mature differently, the law does not specify a certain age, such as 12, 13, or 14. However, the more mature a child is, the more weight the judge will give to the child’s opinion.
If for example, a 14-year-old boy wants to move in with his dad because he’s promised the boy a brand-new truck for his 16th birthday, the judge will not give that much, if any weight. On the other hand, if an 8-year-old girl says she prefers to live with her mother because her father is on the road a lot for his job and that would force her to be cared for by a nanny, a judge would give more weight to her preference, even though she’s younger.
Hopefully, this post answers your questions. If you need help with a divorce or child custody matter in San Diego, don’t hesitate to contact our firm for a free case evaluation.