Legal Information: California

Statutes: California

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Updated: 
January 5, 2024

3042. Preference of child; custody or visitation; examination of child witnesses; addressing the court; means other than direct testimony; determination of wish to express preference; rule of court

(a) If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation.

(b) In addition to the requirements of subdivision (b) of Section 765 of the Evidence Code, the court shall control the examination of a child witness so as to protect the best interest of the child.

(c) If the child is 14 years of age or older and wishes to address the court regarding custody or visitation, the child shall be permitted to do so, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interest, in which case, the court shall state its reasons for that finding on the record.

(d) This section does not prevent a child who is less than 14 years of age from addressing the court regarding custody or visitation, if the court determines that is appropriate pursuant to the child’s best interest.

(e) If the court precludes the calling of a child as a witness, the court shall provide alternative means of obtaining input from the child and other information regarding the child’s preferences.

(f)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the court shall not permit a child addressing the court regarding custody or visitation to do so in the presence of the parties. The court shall provide an alternative to having the child address the court in the presence of the parties in order to obtain input directly from the child.

(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the court may permit the child addressing the court regarding custody or visitation to do so in the presence of the parties if the court determines that doing so is in the child’s best interest and states its reasons for that finding on the record. In determining the child’s best interest under this paragraph, the court shall consider whether addressing the court regarding custody or visitation in the presence of the parties is likely to be detrimental to the child.

(g) To assist the court in determining whether the child wishes to express a preference or to provide other input regarding custody or visitation to the court, a minor’s counsel, an evaluator, an investigator, or a child custody recommending counselor shall indicate to the judge that the child wishes to address the court, or the judge may make that inquiry in the absence of that request. A party or a party’s attorney may also indicate to the judge that the child wishes to address the court or judge.

(h) If a child informs the minor’s counsel, an evaluator, an investigator, or a child custody recommending counselor at any point that the child has changed their choice with respect to addressing the court, the minor’s counsel, evaluator, investigator, or child custody recommending counselor shall, as soon as feasible, indicate to the judge, the parties or their attorneys, and other professionals serving on the case that the child has changed their preference.

(i) This section does not require the child to express to the court a preference or to provide other input regarding custody or visitation.

(j) The Judicial Council shall, no later than January 1, 2023, develop or amend rules as necessary to implement this section.

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