Divorce is rough on kids of all ages. It's especially hard when parents are engaged in contentious or protracted custody fights.
Most California family law judges view joint custody as the optimal choice. However, the constant reshuffling between their parents' homes can wear children down.
Older children can be given the opportunity by the court to express their preferences for where they want to live the majority of the time. This can be both a burden and a relief to the kids. They may be grateful for the opportunity to share their opinion, yet loathe to choose one parent over the other.
Sometimes the choice is practical. Maybe one parent lives in a better school district where the teen is a member of a sports team. Other times, the teenager may simply have a less contentious relationship with one parent than the other. The teen years are notorious for kids and parents butting heads, and this may be an opportunity for respite from strife.
Parents should attempt to accept their children's preferences with equanimity and not allow them to see how disappointed the parent actually may be. It's important not to take the choice personally and to realize that this is just a temporary shift in the parent-child relationship that will pass one day.
What if you are afraid that your child wants to live with your ex because of their lax parenting? That's an issue that needs to be addressed with the court out of earshot of the children.
You and your Orange County family law attorney can strategize to come up with the best approach to drafting a custody agreement.