It is unfortunate that in California divorces, children tend to get caught in the middle. The parents will often have lingering disagreements with each other even if they are on relatively good terms. In cases where the issues that sparked the divorce are especially contentious, it is even worse for the kids.
Parents must remember how the new circumstances will impact the child and to have professional, caring and empathetic assistance to try and reach a positive result for everyone. If the child feels like their preferences are being ignored, it is wise to remember that there are times when they can have a say in how the custody and parenting plan is organized. In a divorce, it is important to understand the law in this specific situation.
When can a child address the court with custody and parenting time?
Under the law, the child can speak about their preference for custody and visitation. They must be of a certain age or deemed mature enough to do so. The court will listen and decide how much weight to give the child’s statement.
If the child is at least 14, then the court will permit them to speak unless it does not serve the child’s best interests to do so. If it does decide that the best interests are violated, it must say why. Children under 14 can also address the court, but it will weigh the best interests and assess the child’s maturity level before doing so. The court can have professionals such as a counselor or an evaluator to help determine how much relevance to give the child’s statement of preference.
Protecting the child is paramount in family law cases
The primary objective is to serve a child’s best interests, ensure there is a steady relationship with both parents and allow the child to thrive. Letting them speak on child custody and parenting time can be part of that.
Hard feelings are sometimes inevitable in a divorce. However, when children are involved, their needs should come to the forefront with attention, empathy and care. If they want to have a role in the process and the parents are agreeable to it, it is vital to have professional assistance to try and reach an outcome that will suit everyone’s goals.