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FAQ What About My Son's Preference Who He Wants to Live With?

FAQ's - What About My Son's Preference of Who He Wants to Live With?

Q. My son visited with me all summer long and now he doesn't want to return to his Mother's. Is it a good idea to try to change custody?

A. A child's preference concerning where he or she wishes to reside can be important in custody contests, but is far from the final word except possibly with children 16 years of age and above. These older children can be quite difficult to control if their preference is strong enough, and judges and parents are more likely to give in to an older child's insistence about where they want to live assuming that there is no overriding detriment to living moving to the preferred parent's home. But a parent who panders to a child who threatens to act out if they don't get their way on this subject is doing real violence to their child's development.

Many normal, balanced, children may have a preference for one parent's home over the other's at any give stage of the child's life. It can flip flop over as the child matures. Sometimes the child is identifying with their same gender parent; other times the child wants to learn what living with the other parent is like. With stable parents, it is a very good thing. Ultimately what is best for children is that the parents do not fight about it, or treat the kids as though they were possessions or meal tickets.

Remember, as parents both are modeling coping and adjustment skills to their children. It is remarkable how many people completely lose sight of the fact that your children will likely act as you did as conflicts arise in their lives. What legacy would you leave them with, if you considered the matter mindfully? So much depends on the attitude of the other parent, and how you approach that parent and what sorts of responses you invite or trigger.
Consider for a moment the pressure that is placed on children when parents ask them to decide who they want to live with, or by implication who they 'love more' or 'prefer.' It is dangerous territory, and not to be tread superficially. Parents who ask the question of their children are probably already asleep at the wheel.

I recently was acting as a temporary judge in Indio (judge pro tem) and a case came before me that was brought by a father, who had a local lawyer who should have known better, seeking to change custody at the end of the summer. Included in the moving papers was a declaration the lawyer had supposedly obtained from a 9 year boy (it bore the child's signature), urging that his mother was a bum and that he did not want to go back, etc. I was aghast, because this was so obviously inappropriate and the pressure that was likely brought to bear on this child, whether covert or overt - and having a 9 year sign a declaration is pretty overt - had to be damaging no matter what the justification. Parents are not the only people who just don't get it. Lawyers who dabble in family law matters frequently lack discernment. Any judge in that situation is immediately going to be suspicious of the parent who puts the declaration 'out there' so it is also a good way of expressing to the court that the parent seeking the change lacks the necessary insight.

In addition, parents often fail to realize they have unspoken agendas which they communicate to children in a variety of nonverbal, or verbally deceptive, ways that can be highly destructive of the child's view of both parents, one gender or the other, and even of themselves.

Please note: This article was written prior to the January 1, 2012 enactment of Family Code section 3042, which requires courts consider children's preferences once they reach the age of 14.


Testimonials & Endorsements

  • “Not only is Mr. Peterson’s knowledge of the law beyond measure, he’s able to articulate it so it’s understandable.”
    If you are going through a divorce, The Law Offices of Arnold, Peterson & Criste is in my opinion the best option available. Mr. Peterson and his assistant Jordyn are top notch. Not only is Mr. Peterson’s knowledge of the law beyond measure, he’s able to articulate it so it’s understandable. He was able to navigate my emotions and help my uphill battle to receive proper visitation as a father. Jordyn never hesitated to reach out within the same business day if documents were needed or for any question I had about the process. Thanks to the team, we resolved the divorce healthfully. I couldn’t be more grateful.
    - Josh Arguijo
  • “I needed the best analysis and advice possible. I found Attorney Thurman Arnold III in Palm Springs.”
    I am a Veteran and Retired Deputy Sheriff. My divorce involved complicated property distribution and spousal support issues. I spent considerable time looking for the best Counsel I could find before I negotiated with my ex-wife and her Attorney. In fact, my case was in another county, but that didn't matter. I needed the best analysis and advice possible. I found Attorney Thurman Arnold III in Palm Springs. Attorney Arnold is a BAR Certified Family Law Specialist. In my humble opinion the best! His review of my case and how "Moore Marsden" property division applied was invaluable. His guidance saved me $30,000 dollars. Thank you, Thurman!
    - Jeff Jones
  • “Mike is adept at managing expectations and being very fair and measured.”
    Needed to modify a settlement and hired Mike Peterson. Mike is very, very knowledgeable and experienced. When you are going through a divorce or child custody issues, it is the most terrifying and stressful experience. Mike is adept at managing expectations and being very fair and measured. I wish I had hired him initially to get it all done straight the first time around. He is very responsive and communicative and understands the client well. Good luck going through this process - have a good guide like Mike without a doubt.
    - Donika McKelvie
  • “I would highly recommend him and the firm”
    Micheal Peterson is very knowledgeable of law and can help you make the best decisions for your family. He does is job with integrity. He helps with giving discounts when he can . I would highly recommend him and the firm . Very good staff .
    - Vincent Hall
  • “Very professional, honest, and handled everything without a hiccup.”
    Arnold, Peterson & Criste are a class act. Very professional, honest, and handled everything without a hiccup. When a year had passed, he and Jordyn contacted me to let me know I still had retainer on the books! I had forgot and they sent me the money anyway! For this I am very grateful and cannot recommend them enough. You won’t go wrong with Thurman Arnold. He is definitely the guy to have on your side.
    - Matt Feenstra
  • “Simply the Best of the Best!!!”
    I Highly Recommend Michael C. Peterson at the Law Office of Thurman W. Arnold!!! I hired Michael for my custody case and he is very knowledgeable and took the time to educate me on the process so we can put together a winning strategy. He fought for me and my children in court and successfully won our case. There are no words to describe how grateful and appreciative I am for Michaels service!!! If you are sitting on the fence on which Attorney to hire, do yourself a favor and hire Michael. I would not recommend anyone else!!! Simply the Best of the Best!!!
    - John and Lukes Tube
  • “Mike amazes me by his knowledge of my case, made me feel like I was his only client.”

    I reached out to this law firm 2 years ago when my life was falling apart. My case was assigned to attorney Michael Peterson. I didn't know much about him except few reviews on google but I'm glad I hit the jackpot. Mike amazes me by his knowledge of my case, made me feel like I was his only client. He's very responsive, respectful and and goes above and…

    - Damaris M.
  • “He and Michael Peterson are truly masters of their craft.”
    When my clients have family law issues, I routinely refer them to Thurman Arnold. He and Michael Peterson are truly masters of their craft. Family law can be an unwieldy beast, but they handle it with precision and finesse.
    - Edward Cross

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