Orange County Custody: How Old Must a Child Be To Choose Their Residency in California?

orange-county-custodyIf you’re a parent with a custody hearing coming up, you may be wondering how much weight your children’s preference holds. Can they choose which parent to live with? And if so, how old must they be to make that decision? 

They could very well choose your ex-partner as their custodial parent, or worse, be impacted by participating in court from such a young age. Nonetheless, in California, a child has to be at least 14 years old to state their preference and 18 years old to decide for themselves. 

But through divorce mediation, your child – whether they’re 14 or 18 – can express their preferences in a far healthier environment while allowing you and your spouse to control the family’s future. Read on for an explanation of age requirements for residency selection in Orange County custody cases.


Age Requirement for Residency Selection

Once a child is of sufficient age and cognitive ability to voice their own opinion on custody matters, California courts are required to consider their preference. In Orange County custody cases and broader California custody matters, a child must be at least 14 years old to voice their custodial preference. But to definitively choose their residency, they must be 18 years old. 

Furthermore, while Cal. Fam. Code 3042 allows children under 18 years old to voice their opinion, this doesn’t mean your judge will follow suit. Generally speaking, courts will give more weight to an older child’s preference than that of younger children. 


Are Children Required to State Custodial Preferences?

If you have an Orange County custody hearing on the horizon, you may be wondering if your children are required to testify about their custodial preferences in court. After all, it can be nerve-racking not knowing who your child or children will sway towards or how being in court at such a young age will affect them moving forward. 

In short, yes, a judge can require your children to testify on custody matters. The court is more likely to have older, more mature children testify if they wish to do so, but a judge maintains the ability to mandate a child to state their preference in court. A judge can use other methods to gather their input and preferences, such as through an evaluator, investigator, or a divorce mediator.


Reasons to Mediate Your Parenting Plan

Orange County custody battles add another layer of hurt on to an already painful situation. Rather than giving yourself another conflict to fight over in the courtroom, consider the route of divorce mediation for a more collaborative approach. A trusted mediator won’t just move the settlement process along – they’ll do so without the involvement of a courtroom or judge’s verdict. At the Law Offices of Jennifer Owens, we’re accustomed to developing co-parenting plans that cover visitation, custody, and other parenting agreements in a supportive manner.


Consult an Orange County Custody Expert

If you’re struggling to settle on a parenting plan, visitation schedule, or other custody conflicts, consider mediating towards a healthy co-parenting plan. At the Law Offices of Jennifer Owens, we revel in the power of choice. When spouses face divorce, they’re presented with a slew of decisions with a handful of potential outcomes. Our attorneys are believers in the best possible outcome, where a former couple chooses peace over destruction so that they can finally move on to their next chapter. No matter your desired path – mediation, a negotiated settlement, or even litigation – The Law Offices of Jennifer Owens will help you achieve the best possible outcome by reaching a settlement that keeps all involved parties in mind. Visit our website to review our family law services, or contact us online for a free consultation

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