An Advocate In Family Law Cases

At what age can a child decide to disregard the terms of custody order?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2024 | Child Custody & Support

Many factors influence custody arrangements in California. Agreements between the parents, family schedules and the status of household relationships can all influence the division of parental rights and responsibilities. Parents are often able to settle custody matters between themselves as they prepare to co-parent. If they cannot, a California family law judge can decide what terms might be in the best interests of their children.

Once there is a custody order on record, the parents should follow the parenting schedule it outlines. However, the children may not be happy about the arrangements. Particularly if they have a strained relationship with one parent, they might prefer to spend most or all of their time with the other parent. At what age does a child’s wishes allow them to disregard the terms set forth in a custody order?

Children do not control custody arrangements

The idea that a child can govern custody arrangements is a common misconception. Quite a few parents believe that a child who is 12 or possibly 16 now has a degree of control over the custody arrangements for the family. However, that belief is not a reflection of current family law statutes in California.

If a child declares that they do not want to spend time with one parent, the other parent still has an obligation to uphold the custody order by encouraging the child to comply. The failure to abide by the custody arrangement could lead to enforcement efforts against the parent who still spends time with the children. The only time a child’s wishes could affect custody arrangements is if the family pursues a formal custody modification. Judges may consider a young adult’s wishes in some circumstances, but even then, they are unlikely to approve of adjustments that eliminate one parent’s time with their children.

The requirement to spend time with both parents allows the adults in the family to work on their relationships with the children, which can benefit everyone in the family in the long run. Understanding the rules that govern custody arrangements in California is crucial, as improper conduct could lead to unfavorable custody modifications or other enforcement actions. Parents who understand California’s approach to co-parenting can address conflicts with their co-parents and their children in more informed ways.