The divorce process is trying at the best of times. One of the most complex aspects can be resolving child custody disputes. Sometimes, a child may express a strong desire to live with one parent and not the other.
Do children get to decide which parent they live with? If not, just how much of a say do they have on the matter?
Children under 12 years of age generally don’t have a say
The law relating to how much of a say a child has in custody hearings is outlined in Texas Family Code 153.009. Typically, the view of the court has been that children have a voice, but in a more practical manner. One side or another can ask the court to hear the opinions of children under 12 years of age, but the court is under no obligation to do so.
The court would most likely deem a child of this age to not yet have the intellectual maturity to form a reasoned opinion. However, children are not uniform in nature and each case will be decided upon its own merits. If the judge allows the child’s opinion, they will most likely hear it in their chambers rather than open court.
Older children may be allowed to express their preferences
Often, children over 12 years of age will be able to express more informed opinions. Thus, if a child of this age wishes to express their feelings on the matter, the judge is obliged to meet them. Again, often this will take place in the judge’s chambers rather than open court.
Who gets the final say about custody?
The court may consider a child’s feelings in their decision. However, they will place the best interests of the child ahead of all. A child’s opinion on the issue may be misguided. In other words, what the child wants and what’s best for the child are not always the same.
Familiarizing yourself with child custody laws in Texas is in the best interest of both you and your children. Protecting your legal rights is crucial and could result in the best outcome for your case.