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How to talk to your child about their custody preference

When you and your spouse first announce your decision to divorce, you probably won't be able to answer all of your child's questions about their future.

In most cases, parents will need to sit down with their child later on to discuss the child custody arrangement. Here are a few important aspects to consider covering when the time comes.

Take your child's opinion into consideration

In Texas, a divorce court will consider a child's preference when making custody decisions if the child is 12 years or older. With this in mind, you and your ex-spouse should consider asking your child's preference.

Agree on a few options in advance

The best way to go about asking your child's preference and discussing potential custody arrangement is to first agree with your ex-spouse on a few different schedules that could work.

You should also explain that while you'd like to hear your child's opinion, it won't necessarily be the option that is chosen.

Have both parents present during the conversation

If possible, you and your ex-spouse should both be present for this conversation. This will allow your child to preview the two of you working together for his or her sake. Being respectful of your ex will help you preserve a positive, healthy relationship with your child.

If you and your ex-spouse cannot have the conversation together amicably, agree not to speak ill of one another or pressure the child's decision. Otherwise, the conversation could leave your child with life-lasting trust issues.

Emphasize the factors to consider

Child custody arrangements aren't determined by which parent the child loves more. They are selected based on which options are in the child's best interests.

When choosing child custody options and discussing them with your child, remember to emphasize the following considerations:

  • Whether they'll need to switch schools
  • Being near friends
  • Being able to do extracurricular activities
  • Educational opportunities

Take the pressure off your child

When you share potential custody options with your child, tell them that it's okay if they aren't sure what their preference is. Allow them to take time to think it over and give them the option of not stating a preference at all.

You can also tell your child that the custody arrangement will likely change as they grow older, so this isn't necessarily a concrete decision.

Emphasize the love

Tell your child that their preference won't hurt either parents' feelings and regularly remind them of your unconditional love and support throughout the conversation.

Get a lawyer's help

Before engaging in this conversation, a lawyer can teach you more about what custody options are most common for certain age groups and financial situations. This may help steer you and your ex-spouse toward a schedule that is the best fit.

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