When you first set up a custody schedule, you were thinking about your child’s needs at that time. Your child might be young now, only 4 or 5, for example, and have few responsibilities for you to manage.
As your child ages, they become more active and participate more in outside activities. They make friends, join school teams and, overall, have a very different life than in the past.
Once your child reaches the age of 14, the courts in California will listen to their preferences in custody cases. This doesn’t mean that your child gets to do whatever they want. Instead, it means that the judge will listen to their concerns and preferences, weighing them when deciding on changes to your custody schedule.
How much does your child’s preference matter to the court?
It matters, but it doesn’t outweigh other factors. For example, if you and your ex-spouse agree on a schedule that works based on both of your work schedules, the fact that your child would like to live with one parent over the other may not play a role in the court’s approval of your agreement. However, if your child makes a good point about their preferences, like feeling uncomfortable with one parent because of their actions, the court may ask that changes are made to better support your child’s wishes.
How often can you seek changes in custody?
Unless there is a major change in your circumstances, you can usually only petition for a modification of custody every two years. However, if you have a major change occur, like a marriage, new child or new job that could impact your custody schedule, the court will likely hear your case and grant you a modification if it’s deemed necessary.
By law, your child has to have their opinion heard once they turn 14, but you are still their parent and still know more about the situation than they do. The judge isn’t going to let your child’s choices overrule a situation that both parents are happy with, but they do need to allow your child’s wishes to be known.
Your attorney can begin to prepare you for court if you need to seek a modification of custody or other changes to your custody plans on behalf of your child. Your attorney can also talk to your child about stating their wishes in court and how they should talk to the judge.