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How much say should children have in child custody disputes?

Some children can be wise beyond their years, but even the most mature child may find it hard to cope with the emotions that are stirred up when his or her parents divorce. This month, the California Legislature is set to consider a bill that amends the law relating to child custody disputes. If successful, the change will allow parents to bring their children, ages 10 years and older, to court in order to tell the judge with which parent he or she wishes to live.

On the face of it, this seems like a positive move. A child who has suffered at the hands of an abusive parent can be given the opportunity to state his or her concerns and wishes. But what of those children who may be manipulated by their parents in order to sway the children to one side or another? Such manipulation could range from offers of treats and unlimited gifts to threats of punishment or worse if the child goes against the parent.

A similar law was implemented in Texas some years ago, but it did not remain in place for long. It was found that too many such incidences of manipulation were appearing in court. Children were being coerced into signing affidavits, and there were also times when both parents would present affidavits signed by a child, leading to the presentation of conflicting information.

Child custody is never going to be an easy part of divorce. While it is reasonable to allow the child a say in his or her future, it may be unfair to force one to make a decision to choose between two good parents who both have the best interest of their child at heart. Only time will tell whether such a change in California's laws will be of greater benefit to the children who are affected.

Source: sandiegouniontribune.com, "Making kids choose not wise in custody battles", Richard A. Warshak, Apr. 8, 2016

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