How AB 1050 May Affect Child Custody and Visitation
Assembly Bill 1050 was signed by the governor on August 27, 2010 and became law on January 1, 2012. This new law changes the way a court must consider the preference of a sufficiently mature child during proceedings regarding the establishment or modification of a custody or visitation order.
California family courts have formerly been required to grant due weight to the preference of a child of reasonable age and maturity. However, under AB 1050, a child of 14 years of age or more has a right to address the court if he or she wishes regarding his or her preferences for custody or visitation. The court may only refuse this right upon a finding that doing so would not be in the best interests of the child, accompanied by a statement on the record of its reasons for finding so. The court must also provide an alternative means for allowing the child to express his or her preference or input to the court. Children under the age of 14 may also request to address the court if they so desire, but the court has broader discretion to deny such a request.
The preferences of the child have formerly been relevant in custody and visitation proceedings. But by allowing children of sufficient age to address the court directly, the functional weight accorded to these preferences has increased. Additionally, the new law allows a child to make this request independently of the parties or their attorneys. This could remove a certain degree of control from the parents during divorce or custody proceedings and complicate out-of-court negotiations by allowing a child to object to a custody plan that the parents have found agreeable.