Is there an age at which children can choose which parent to live with?

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Fredrick S. (Rick) Cohen

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Serving Sacramento, CA

  • Serving Sacramento, CA

  • Credit cards accepted, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

Attorney at firm Law Offices of Fredrick S. Cohen

Serving Sacramento, CA

Credit cards accepted, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

Awards BV Distinguished

Yes, 18.

Until a child is 18 years of age, the minor child does not get to “choose” where to live. However, the court gives increasing weight to the preferences of the minor child based on the extent to which the minor child is able to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation. Family Code section 3042.

As a practical matter, the courts give increasing weight to a child’s preferences as the child ages. In my experience, the following chart is a good rough summary of the amount of weight the courts give to children depending on their age (but, every case is different):

0-7 Virtually no weight
8-10 Slight weight
11-13 Moderate weight
14-15 Substantial weight
16-17 Very heavy weight

Some courts have issued orders that allow the child to choose their own parenting plan. These orders, while not uncommon, are improper. It is the judge’s duty and obligation to make the custody order and to not simply order that the child makes the decision. The court may not delegate the authority to determine the custody and visitation order to anyone else, especially the child. In Re Korbin Z. (2016) 3 Cal.App.5th 511.

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