Kids, for the most part, have no problem being vocal about what they want. This can get tricky, especially when it comes to custody. In certain cases, kids insist on not spending time with one parent, often out of spite or hurt feelings. Other times, the child has legitimate reasons for not wanting to be around one of his or her parents. So do kids in California get to choose which parent they live with?
The short answer: No. Judges in Family Court as well as family law attorneys want what's best for kids, and they assume that the divorcing parents do, too. In the best case scenarios, everybody involved works hard so that the children get a fair and loving custody agreement. But things aren't always so easy. When it comes to teenagers (who, let's face it, are an unpredictable lot to begin with), many states allow teens to choose which parent they live with. Some states mandate that the child wait until they are older than 15 to make the decision. Again, this is complicated and shouldn't be done without help.
If, in fact, a child has reasons for wanting to live with a specific parent, it may be worth looking into. Sometimes a child lives with a parent who suffers from drug addiction, alcoholism or a mental disorder. Cases like Courtney Love and Britney Spears, both of whom lost custody of their kids, are more common than we'd like to think. Also, if there's a history of violence with one parent or a demanding career that forces a parent out of town frequently, a child may simply be saying, "this situation is bad and I don't want to be here."
Thankfully, in California (under the Family Law Code 3042), courts will listen to kids of a sufficient age and take serious concerns into consideration when granting or modifying custody. If there's enough evidence, a child's wish of whom they live with may be granted. The down side is that the child more than likely will have to appear before a judge and give testimony.
In the end, the great majority of parents wants kids to be happy, even in divorce. The big mistakes we make as human beings are those that happen when we don't ask for help. Asking the right questions and having people who care about you is one way to make a tough situation better.