When Can My Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

Mother and child lay in grass smiling at each other

Courts Can Consider a Kid’s Wishes in Custody Cases

Divorce is hard on the whole family – children included. As kids battle with fears of moving away, anxiety about how their home life will change, and the overall pain of watching their parents separate, they’ll likely develop preferences for which parent they’d like to live with. Sometimes, the courts will take these requests into consideration when ruling on custody.

Texas Laws Regarding Listening to a Child’s Input

Texas law allows children 12 and older to tell the ruling judge which parent they’d rather live with. It is at this age that courts must consider the child’s wishes. However, this will not result in an automatic grant of the child’s request. That is, a child cannot effectively decide with whom they will live. They can have their input heard and considered, but custody is still up to the discretion of the court.

It’s Texas Family Code 153.009 that protects children’s voices. Under this section, parents may request that the judge meet with their child, even if they are not yet 12. Still, judges are only required to meet with children 12 and older.

When a Child Is Under the Age of 12

If the judge refuses to interview the young kid, a parent may pursue some more expensive options to have the child’s preferences heard in court. They could request that the child have a lawyer appointed for them, called an amicus attorney. Alternatively, a parent could hire a psychologist to evaluate the child custody matter, or bring the child to a counselor to whom they can share their wishes. In either case, the professional will usually testify or report to the judge about the child’s wishes and their own professional opinion of what would best serve the child.

The Weight of a Child’s Preference

The judge, when hearing the child’s preference, will consider not just their answer, but their reasoning for it. A decision based on a belief that they will be assigned fewer chores and subject to fewer rules will not carry the same weight as one in which a child wishes to stay close to their friends and remain in the same school district.

The decision is ultimately left to the judge, as it’s believed that they have the ability to recognize and protect the child’s best interests, even if it strays from the child’s preferences.

When Children Can Make the Decision Themselves

Children are only granted the right to decide which parent they live with after they become an adult at 18. Until then, kids are expected to abide by all court-ordered custody and visitation schedules.

If your marriage is approaching an end, contact Camille Borg Law PLLC. We can help make your child’s opinion heard and fight for a custody decision that protects their best interests. Call us at (469) 646-7763 to get started.

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