Do the Family Courts Ever Separate Siblings?
Even if all the feelings of love and friendship you ever had for your spouse are gone by the time your divorce is finalized, almost everyone is sad to see their family break up. The good news is that the family courts make it their goal to ensure that you get to have an ongoing, stable relationship with your children, as does your ex-spouse. With very few exceptions, siblings stay together after divorce. In other words, both children may spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other parent, instead of one child being with Mom on the weekdays and the other being with her on the weekends. Of course, the child’s best interests are always the highest priority, and many factors go into determining each child’s best interest. This means that there are a few scenarios in which, after a divorce, not all the siblings will have the same primary residential parent. A San Jose child custody lawyer can help you find the best path forward for your family.
The Child’s Reasonable Preference
For children 14 years or older, the courts consider the child’s reasonable preference as one of the factors in determining the child’s best interest. In other words, the judge might ask a teenager (privately in the judge’s office, not in a courtroom in front of both parents) which the teen prefers to live on most days of the year. The judge will also ask why. If the teen can give a compelling reason, such as wanting to participate in a sport or academic program that is only offered at the neighborhood school where Dad lives but not where Mom lives, then the judge will factor the teen’ preference in the child custody decision. Whether the reason is compelling is also left to the discretion of the judge. Conflict with parents, stepparents, or siblings might also play a role in the teen’s preference. The judge might decide, based on the testimony of high-school aged children, that it is best for one sibling to stay with one parent while the other stays with the other parent.
In child custody cases, trying to make your ex-spouse look like the bad guy always backfires. Sabotaging the relationship between your children and your ex will make the judge give you less parenting time, not more. In at least one instance in California case law, a judge separated siblings in order to prevent parental alienation. After Tara and William divorced, the judge determined that Tara had “poisoned the relationship” between William and the parties’ older son. The judge determined that designating William the primary residential parent of the parties’ younger son was the only way to save the relationship between him and his father.
Let Us Help You Today
Maintaining a strong relationship with your children after a divorce can be a challenge. A San Jose child custody & visitation lawyer can help you develop and implement a parenting plan that is conducive to a stable relationship with your children. Contact Foster Hsu for a consultation.