Christmas and Hanukah are gift-giving holidays that only come once each year. But try telling this to children who are in the middle of their parents’ divorce. Often, as a divorce unfolds, children find themselves receiving gifts on a regular basis from one or both parents. Every day may seem like a festive holiday-minus the good cheer and family unity. The dark side of receiving the latest video games, toys, or clothes during a divorce is that these gifts usually come with a price. Parents may believe that they can “buy” their children’s loyalty. A divorcing parent may feel that the $99.95 spent on an iPod, for example, is a good investment if it gets the children to favor one parent over the other. Understandably, children can find it difficult to avoid being influenced by a parent who regularly showers them with gifts.

Fortunately for children, the California legal system is aware of the potential for bribes during divorce. Courts understand that parents seeking custody may try to turn their children against their other parent. Consequently, judges are not required to make custody decisions based solely on a child’s wishes. These wishes must be considered if the child is of a reasonable age and can exercise judgment (14 is a pivotal age in California). But final authority ultimately rests with the judge, no matter how passionately a child may speak out in support of one parent.

Also, judges may receive help in making their decision from a court mediator or custody evaluator. Custody mediators and evaluators work with children, learning their true feelings regarding custody in a setting where they will not feel the influence of either parent. Court mediators and judges cannot provide children with gifts; but they can provide a stable future-the kind of gift that is more valuable than anything found under the Christmas tree or unwrapped on the eighth night of Hanukah. For more information on child custody questions in California contact the lawyers at Feinberg & Waller, APC.