Can older kids have a say in custody decisions?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Child Custody |

Despite being at the heart of custody battles, children often have no voice in the decision-making process. Younger children, understandably, still lack the capacity to process the situation or articulate their feelings. However, older kids or teens may be mature enough to form opinions and add to the conversation.

Although a child cannot make the final call on custody decisions, Texas family courts may consider what they have to say.

The power of a child’s preferences

In Texas, children aged 12 and older gain the right to express their wishes about custody. Although the ultimate decision still lies with a judge, this mark of maturity allows children to have their opinions known.

In the past, Texas allowed children to sign a form indicating which parent they wanted to live with. Unfortunately, this could leave the child vulnerable to pressure during contentious custody disputes.

Now, a more thoughtful approach is in place. Qualified children can meet with a judge in private for an interview. The appointed judge may ask about their relationship with parents and other concerns to understand the child’s position. As long as the child is 12 years old, the judge must hear them out.

As children grow older and their situations evolve, they might want to change their living situation. Teens, for instance, may have new reasons to prefer living with the other parent, such as problems with school or safety. Parents with an existing custody arrangement may petition for a modification and request the judge to interview their child.

Although judges are not bound to a child’s wishes, they can have a powerful influence. It may prompt a review of the child’s circumstances and lead to an arrangement that prioritizes their needs.

A child’s best interests always takes priority

A child’s wishes are only one of the many factors a judge will consider when deciding custody. If a judge determines that such wishes do not align with what is best for the child, it could have little to no effect on the custody arrangement. The court will always focus on achieving an outcome that serves the child’s best interests.

In many cases, it is better to shield children from adult and legal matters. However, if a child strongly wants to adjust their living situation, consider seeking legal guidance beforehand. A lawyer can offer a supportive and compassionate ear while advocating for you and your family.



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