Separating after building a life together is difficult no matter what. While the adults involved have a hand in how the proceedings go, the children often get caught in the middle. If the divorce is high conflict, it can take a real toll on the kids.

When does a child have an opinion about what happens during a divorce? Since it is the child’s living arrangements that the parties will have to decide, some children believe they should have a voice in the process. Is there a point where their opinion matters?

The age of the child

In California, a child may want to speak to a judge about who he or she wants to live with. According to the law, a child must reach the age of 14 before the court considers the opinion with authority. However, if a child is younger than that, and there is evidence of wrongdoing on the part of one parent, a judge may wish to speak to the child anyway.

The state of the divorce

In considering what the child wants, the court will look at the divorce proceedings. A high conflict situation will present itself clearly to an experienced eye, even if it is only on paper. If a couple appears to disagree on everything and file suits and countersuits against each other, the judge may see the volatility of the relationship.

The relationship with the parents

The court will ask the child questions about the environment in each home. Through a series of questions, the judge may tell if one parent seems to want to sway the child to his or her side. If a child talks about a parent as fun or the other as mean, the court may believe there is a chance that one parent is trying to bribe a child into choosing him or her.

A child’s voice can determine which way a court will rule, but other factors come into play. Bearing the totality of the situation in mind, a judge may wind up listening or ruling against the child.