When a couple with children divorces in California, one of the most important considerations the court or parents have to make is what parental rights each party receives. The 2015 California Rules of Court dictate how a child's opinion might influence child custody matters.
Children do not have to participate in custody and visitation decisions but could be allowed to convey their wishes under certain circumstances. A judge must consider a child's opinion and weigh its value while also ensuring the child is protected. The best interests of a child are the court's main concern, but all parties involved must also be given their right to challenge evidence.
If a child wishes to address the court, a judge decides if this is in the child's best interests by looking at the child's age, the child's capacity for reasoning and whether the child understands the nature and importance of the testimony process. Another main concern is the child's emotional state and what consequences could follow if a child is allowed or denied the chance to speak. Generally, the court is expected to hear testimony when any children who are 14 or older wish to speak.
When hearing testimony from a child, a judge must consider the environment that will suit a child best. This means a child might give a statement in a judge's chambers without parents or attorneys present.
While child custody matters are very important when a couple divorces, they are also delicate. Courts like to conduct matters in ways that do not harm a child's mental or emotional state, so parents should be aware of how to talk to children when filing for a divorce. Services like mediation or counseling can help parents and children communicate effectively during the divorce process.