Thursday, May 15, 2008

Does my Child Have Any Say in Visitation?

Dear Attorney,
Is there an age at which a child's wishes are considered in a custody dispute? I have a 16 year old daughter, and for the past several years since my divorce she has lived with me 99% of the time. My daughter sees her dad several times a week after school and on weekends. She spends an occasional night at his home. She is a well adjusted, straight A student and an all around good kid. She is very happy with the current custody arrangement.

My ex has recently begun threatening to take me to court for more time with our daughter. She does not want her current arrangement to change. If my ex takes me back to court for more time, will the judge consider my child's wishes? My daughter has tried to talk to her Dad, but he isn't listening. She is very upset over this and she insists that I fight and says she is prepared to say how she feels to a judge. . .

I hope she doesn't have to, but if she does, will the court listen?
D.M.

Dear D.M.-
California law requires the courts to take into consideration a child's wishes in a custody dispute, so long as that child is "of sufficient age and maturity." Gernerally speaking, courts interpret this to mean that achild should have some say in where they will beginning around age 13. However, your daughter has nearly reached adulthood, and is unusually mature. She is also a good student. Because of this, your daughter's wishes will be given greater weight.

Although the law favors frequent and continuing contact with both parents, the courts general concern is stability and continuity for your daughter. The courts do not want to "rock the boat," so to speak. Your daughter does see her father, anyway, and it sounds like they have a good relationship, just on your daughter's terms. If this case was to go to court, the judge would order your daughter to be interviewed by a trained court professional, so that she could be given the opportunity to explain her reasons for not wanting to change the schedule. This would also give the court the ability to assess whether your daughter was being pressured by either parent to take a certain position about visitation. Once the court was convinced your daughter was doing well; mature enough to have some imput in her life; and that your daughter was satisfied your daughter was happy with the current arrangement, the court would not change the current visitation schedule.

Don't worry, Mom, everything is going to be okay!!
-- Famularo & Associates

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

mY HUSBAND AND I HAVE ONLY BEEN DIVORCED FOR ABOUT TWO YEARS. MY HUSBAND HAS PHYSICAL CUSTODY OF MY TWI KIDS AND THEY LIVE IN CALIFORNIA. I LIVE IN SOUTH CAROLINA AND MY KIDS VISITED ME THIS PAST SUMMER. MY KIDS WANT TO SEE ME AND BE WITH ME MORE OFTEN AND WANT TO LIVE WITH ME. THEIR DAD WONT ALLOW IT. DOES MY KIDS HAVE ANY SAY WHERE THEY WANT TO LIVE? MY SON IS 13 YEARS OLD AND MY DAUGHTER IS 8 YEARS OLD. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO SO THAT THEY CAN LIVE WITH ME?