DennisBeaverJune 14, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver

“Your recent article on parents and high school kids playing football caught my attention,” ‘Elliot’ stated in what would prove to be a highly emotional phone call. “While it’s not football, there is a similar struggle going on between my wife, ‘Karen’ and me, over our 16 year old daughter, ‘Jennifer’ and her plans to get a tattoo.

“Her mom and I are in our 40’s and have been separated for over a year. She asked for space, I agreed and she promptly moved in with a 30 year old tattoo artist who has something against wearing a shirt. One look at him and you are reminded of the 1960’s science fiction movie, The Illustrated Man. This guy is creepy.

“Now, my wife’s arms are covered in tattoos, and our daughter wants something called a sleeve. She didn’t ask me for permission, only announced, ‘Dad, I am getting sleeves on both arms. I think it’s so cool and I do not care what you say!’

“Dennis, I am a longtime Arcata reader and need your advice. Before today, I didn’t know much about tattoos, but am very worried about Jennifer’s welfare. Your suggestions will be appreciated.”

Are there custody orders in effect? In California, no tattoos for minors

We ran these facts by Riverside family law attorney Paul Wallin, who gave us an analysis which began with this question: “Who has custody.”

“If there is no custody order–which appears to be your reader’s situation–then the parents are presumed to have joint legal custody. This means that both–acting together or separately–have the legal authority to make major decisions for the child.”

As Wallin explained, three main categories fit under this heading, “major decisions,” and include:




“While in California you must be at least 18 to get a tattoo, without a court order preventing her from doing this, Jennifer’s mother could legally take her to a state which did not have that age restriction,” Wallin observes.

We asked, “If that appeared to be on horizon, could dad do anything to stop it?”

“Yes,” he replied, “He would have to go to court and file an ex parte application to stop mom from moving forward with the tattoo pending a court hearing. This would act like a restraining order, and if mom were to violate it, she would likely be found in contempt of court.”

Would a Family Court Judge consider the daughter’s wishes?

As California and 45 other states prohibit minors from getting a tattoo, a Family Court judge would never listen to the desires of a 16 year old. But there are times when a judge is required to pay attention to what the minor wants.

“However, there is an incorrect, but commonly held belief about the weight given to a child’s desires in custody and visitation cases,” Wallin points out.

“In California and many other states, a Family Court judge must listen to the opinion of a minor 14 years of age or older. But taking testimony is one thing and doing what the child wants is quite another matter. Courts are required to reach a decision based on the best interests of the minor, not something that mom or dad has told them to say.”

A Tattooed Police Office Gives His Opinion

Who better to offer an opinion to a 16 year old who wants a tattoo than someone who got tattoos when he was 17, and works closely with high school students as a School Resource Officer in Southern California? We’ll call him “Officer Dan.”

“I know first-hand what tattoos can do in terms of people judging you,” he observes. “Even though people say ‘We shouldn’t judge, but we definitely do!’ I encourage anyone who asks about a tattoo, that they need to be wise about it and never get visible tattoos below the level of a short sleeve shirt.”

“Whatever the design, it should be pleasing and non- controversial. While you might like Bible verses, that person interviewing you for a job may be of a different faith and offended. Realize that not everyone will share your beliefs,” he points out.

Once cool now slams doors in your face

Given that the human brain matures at about age 25, to Officer Dan, “Reality is that kids cannot see beyond today. They simply cannot comprehend. It is neurology and we can talk to them until we are blue in the face. It’s when they are out in the real world looking for a job that the tattoo which seemed so cool before, now slams doors in their face,” he cautions.

Finally, we know of several trial attorneys who tell their clients, “Either cover your tattoos or find a new lawyer.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.