California Laws on Teenage Custody Wishes

By Wayne Thomas

Custody determinations often have a significant impact on the life of a child. For that reason, California law provides judges with the discretion to consider a teenager's preference, if the child is capable of making a reasonable choice. Also, teenagers 14 and older may generally participate in the proceedings and offer input, regardless of whether the court ultimately considers the child's preference.

Custody determinations often have a significant impact on the life of a child. For that reason, California law provides judges with the discretion to consider a teenager's preference, if the child is capable of making a reasonable choice. Also, teenagers 14 and older may generally participate in the proceedings and offer input, regardless of whether the court ultimately considers the child's preference.

Overview of Custody

In California, there are two components to child custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the authority to make major decisions regarding your child, such as those related to health care, education and religion. Physical custody refers to where the child spends overnights as well as day-to-day decisions, such as the clothing the child wears. Both types of custody can be held solely by one parent or shared. If one parent is granted sole physical custody, the other parent typically has visitation privileges.

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Best Interest Factors

In making all custody and visitation decisions, California judges are required to promote the best interests of the child after considering several factors outlined in state law. These factors look at which parent is better able to provide for the health and safety of the child, has a more stable home environment and is better able to facilitate the child's contact with the other parent. Also, the court can consider the preference of the child, if the child is of a suitable age and capable of making reasonable decisions. Unlike some states, which have a specific age specified in the law, California defers to judges to both make this decision and determine how much weight the preference should be given. Generally speaking, teenagers are typically better able to comprehend the nature of custody proceedings compared to younger children.

Participation

Although there is no specific age that qualifies a child's preference for consideration by California divorce courts, state law requires that children 14 and older be provided an opportunity to address the court, unless it can be shown to not be in the child's best interest. The practical effect of this is that if your teenager is at least 14, she can typically participate in the process, regardless of whether her preference of custody or visitation is considered by the judge. This might include offering testimony regarding other best interest factors, such as the nature of each parent's living environment and the child's present needs.

Modification

In California, parents with an existing custody order may pursue a modification of the order if there has been a change in circumstances. In making this determination, the court must ensure that the modification suits the best interests of the child and will consider the same factors as those used in establishing custody, including the preference of the child if she is of a suitable age and competency. This might play a larger role than in the original custody determination if the child was not old enough at that time, but has since matured. But the child's preference is not necessarily controlling, and the amount of weight the judge gives the preference is always at his discretion.

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Child Custody Rights for 12 Years & Older

References

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Tenessee Custody Laws

Because child custody disputes often become contentious and emotionally charged, Tennessee has established specific laws governing the adjudication of these disputes. Judges treat each family as an individual unit and attempt to discern the best custody arrangement for each child. However, these arrangements are governed by state law and cannot be based on a judge's whims or prejudices.

The Legal Age in California for Choosing to Live With Your Mom or Your Dad

California courts base child custody decisions on the legal doctrine known as "the best interests of the child." The state recognizes that it might not always be the best decision to force a child to live with one parent when he may be closer to the other. But at what age the child becomes old enough to make this judgment for himself is in a legislative gray area. The outcome often comes down to the subjective opinion of a particular judge on a case-by-case basis.

Factors Used in Determining Child Custody

If you can't reach a custody agreement with your spouse, divorce means putting your family in the hands of a trial court judge. The court has no intimate knowledge of your family to guide a custody decision, so it must fall back on a statutory standard provided by law. This is called the "best interests of the child," and the different states have different lists of factors that a judge must consider in deciding just what the best interests of your child are.

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