When Can my Child Pick Which Parent They Want to Live With in California?


California courts must consider and give weight to a child’s preference "when the child is of sufficient age and ability to voice an intelligent opinion on custody or visitation".


When a child turns 14, the California Family Code allows the child to voice a custodial preference, unless the judge, in their opinion believes doing so would be detrimental.

Although the law specifically permits children at least 14-years-old to express an opinion, there is no specific age when a judge will or must listen to a child’s opinion.


The California Family Code also permits children that are younger than 14 years old to testify regarding a custodial preference, unless the court decides it’s not in the child’s best interest to do so. But, if the judge precludes a child from voicing an opinion in court, they must give the child another avenue to voice their opinion, such as a child custody evaluator.


Ultimately, the California Family Code dictates that children cannot choose where to live until they are 18 years old. Each case is different, and the judge will decide how much weight to give to the child’s preference using broad discretion. Courts will generally give more value to older children’s opinions than those of younger children.


Another common factor judges will consider are the reasons a child prefers one parent over the other when deciding how much weight to give the preference. For example, in a case where a boy testified that he wanted to live with his mother because he was less strict than his father, the court may decide to not give that opinion much, if any weight.


Ultimately, it is important to remember that coaching a child as to which parent they need to live with will be frowned upon and is never in the best interest of the child, no matter the age.


If you are currently in a situation where a custody modification may be needed in Orange, Riverside, or San Bernardino Counties. Call "The Fathers Rights Attorney" at 951-2231058 and put the team at Reel Fathers Rights on you side.