Should a Child Have a Say in Texas Custody Cases?

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Texas law says that a child must be 12 years of age to have a say where he or she lives in a Texas custody case. There are pros and cons regarding whether a child is mature enough to understand the reality of the situation and can make the best decision for him or herself. Generally, the older and more mature the child is, the more likely the judge will take his or her wishes into account.

It’s not all that cut and dry, though. Judges don’t have to follow a child’s wishes—even an older, mature teenager. A judge may deem that it’s not in a minor’s best interest to stay with that child’s parent of choosing.

Many factors go into the making of a judge’s decision in this matter, such as the ability of parents to get along, how close the parents live to each other and the possibility that one parent is improperly influencing a child. An immature 13-year-old, for example, may wish to live with the parent who is mostly absent from the house or who is less of a disciplinarian, as it will give the child more freedom, but it is not necessarily in his or her best interest.

If a Child Should Have a Say, Then How Much?

A child between the ages of 12 and 18 in Texas does not have the final say in determining which parent gets custody. Texas law does not allow a minor child to testify in court as to which parent they would prefer as his or her main residential parent. The minor can consult with the judge in private chambers. This way, the child will not feel pressure to answer one way or the other in open court, on the record, in front of the parents. That matter is always left up to the judge, who will decide custody in the best interest of the child. The minor’s wishes are but one factor of many in deciding custody and parenting time.

In some situations, it may not be best for a child to have a say in custody or parenting time. Making and expressing such decisions and preferences can take a toll on a child, who typically feels great love and affection for both parents. It may be unfair to the child to put him or her in the middle of a contested custody battle.

In these situations, a mediator can be a huge benefit in ensuring that the needs of both parents and the child in a non-adversarial way. Mediators act as a neutral third-party, helping to work out a parenting time schedule that works not only for the parents, but for the child as well.

Child custody lawyer Jared Julian is also a mediator that can help families resolve disputes. All of our Texas divorce lawyers handle issues involving child custody, divorce, alimony and other family law matters.