When parents divorce, or when the parents have never been married, one of the issues that may come up at one point is that of custody of a biological child or children. This is often highly charged emotionally, and embittered parents may even use their children as leverage to gain an advantage.  According to the website of the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield in Manhattan Beach, parents need to know their legal rights in order to ensure the best interests of the children are carried out in child custody orders.

Most state laws on child custody mandate that the courts assess the situation to determine what is in the best interests of the child if the parents cannot produce a workable parenting plan. In some cases, the preference of the child is considered providing the child is verbal and exhibits a level of maturity sufficient to make an informed choice.

In California, the law in the past has been less than clear about how the child’s preference on parental custody will be handled by the court. A recent amendment to the California Family Code to include Section 3042 was passed on January 1, 2012 and serves as a guide for courts to decide if a child’s preference should be consulted and under what circumstances. This is a major development in how child custody decisions are handed down, and it is important that the lawyer retained has a thorough understanding and extensive experience in handling such situations.

There are several ways that parents can manipulate the child so that when consulted about their preference, the child will make a choice that is contrary to its best interests. This includes conditioning, alienation, and in some cases emotional abuse. Some children may also state a preference for a more relaxed and more “fun” parent to escape discipline which for a child at a certain age is contrary to their best interests. It is crucial that both the parent and the lawyer can discern when the child is being manipulated and to present evidence to this effect before the court.