Dear Judge,

If we go to Court, will my daughter be able to tell the judge what she wants for a custody schedule? She seems to have her own ideas about where she wants to spend her time.

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This answer depends on what the rules are where you live. Some Courts take children’s preferences into consideration, some have children testify about what they prefer, others include children in mediation sessions where parents can share what they’ve been doing to make sure schedules fit everyone’s needs. Parents can take into consideration what their kids want and balance that with what they think makes the most sense. Depending on the age of the child, it can be helpful to communicate your child’s wishes. It’s also a good idea to make sure your child knows that you and your coParent are the decision makers. This will let them feel comfortable to voice their opinions but will make it clear they aren’t responsible for picking sides.

To demonstrate that you’ve heard your daughter’s concerns about how and where she wants to spend her time, it might be good idea to create a list together. This list can include all of the reasons she wants her visitation schedule set up a certain way. You can coach her to be more open with you by asking questions about her friends, school activities, and how these relate to which home she spends the most time in and on what days. You can also ask her to write down things she likes about spending time with each parent’s home. By highlighting the positives about each parent she’ll feel like she’s being fair. By putting all of this in writing you’ll be able to review the reasons together and share those with your coParent before even setting foot in Court. You may even find that you can come to an agreement without the Court’s involvement at all.

With all of that said, I encourage you to employ some of the techniques listed above. Then talk openly with your daughter and your coParent about a Parenting Time Schedule that works best for all of you. If you can agree on something, you may want to try the coParenter app to create the new schedule. If you still can’t work something out together, the Get Help feature can put you in touch with a mediator who may be able to coach you to a decision that benefits all involved. Good luck!


About Hon. Sherrill Ellsworth (Ret.)

Judge Sherrill Ellsworth (Ret.) is the Chief Community Officer for coParenter.

Ellsworth is the Past Presiding Judge of Riverside County, a Judicial Educator and former Family Law Judge.

After almost 20 years on the bench, she has earned a reputation for being a straight-forward, no-nonsense, fair judicial officer. A broadly talented jurist and settlement expert, Ellsworth has effectively handled complex civil litigation cases, family law, felony criminal trials, probate and general trials throughout her almost 30 years of lawyering and judging. Ellsworth was one of the court's most respected and admired bench officers, earning the trust and revere of her colleagues and the lawyers who appeared before her.

In 2014, Ellsworth was named the Lawyer of the year by the J.Rueben Clark Law Society Los Angeles Chapter. Also in 2014 for her Judicial leadership she was named as an Inductee to Western State University Hall of Fame. And from 2012 to 2014, Ellsworth served as a voting member of California's Judicial Council.

In 2013, Ellsworth was awarded the Douglas Weathers Judicial Leadership Award by the California Consumer Attorneys, as well as various awards for her judicial leadership both as Presiding Judge and for Family Law. In 1999, she was named the American Business Women’s Association Woman of the Year for Judicial Leadership. Ellsworth was appointed vice-chair of the California Court Case Management System Justice Partner Advisory Committee in 2010. She was a member of the Strategic Evaluation Committee appointed by the Chief Justice and of the council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, and Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants.

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