A question that child custody modifications attorneys frequently receive from parents is whether or not their child can state their preference as to which parent they will live with.
Child preference can be one of the factors considered when the family court decides on custody modifications, but whether or not those modifications are made involves much more than just the stated preference of the child.
When changes to a current custody order become necessary or a child desires a change, parents should first discuss it with a child custody modification lawyer who can assess the situation and advise on whether modifications are likely.
Watch the following video from Attorney Greg Housewirth who is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney for more insight on whether a child can decide where he or she wants to live after the divorce is finalized.
Does A Child’s Preference Matter In Child Custody Cases?
When seeking changes to a custody order, many parents erroneously believe that their child can choose which parent they want to live with.
Although a child can give his or her opinion on which parent they wish to live with, custody modifications attorneys stress that this desire is certainly not the only factor that affects this decision.
Whether the preference is stated when the first custody order is written as part of a divorce or at some other time, once a child is older or custody modifications are necessary, preference is only part of the story.
What Is The Law Pertaining to Child Preference?
In the state of Texas, a child is permitted to request staying with a preferred parent once they turn 12 years of age.
For that to happen, parents and their child custody lawyer must file a request for a custody modification with the family court and go through the modification process, after which the child must then be interviewed privately by the judge.
The purpose of the private interview is so the judge can hear the child’s wishes in person without interference from either parent or the child being put in the situation of being stuck in the middle of the two.
How Much Weight Does A Child’s Opinion Carry?
During initial child custody determination or custody modifications hearings, although children 12 years and over may be asked their preference on which parent they would prefer to live with and why, this does not guarantee the judge will agree.
Attorneys find that the degree to which the court will agree with a child depends on many things, such as their age, their mental and emotional maturity, and the overall impression the judge makes of the parents, the child, and the relationship between the three.
A 12-year-old child’s opinion may be taken somewhat into consideration but the decision made by the family court will be one that is in that child’s best interests regardless of their preference.
On the other hand, the judge may consider the preference of an older teenager more heavily depending on that child’s personal development, independence, and other factors.
Seek The Help of an Experienced Custody Lawyer
When child custody modifications become necessary or a child aged 12 or older wishes to change the parent they live with, it may be time to revisit current custody orders.
Texas parents should begin this process by first discussing the situation with a child custody modifications attorney.
Though preference will not be the only deciding factor on which parent the child lives with, children wishing to state their preference will be given a chance to do so.
Based on the age of the child, their maturity, current conditions between the parents, and other important custody and co-parenting factors, the court will decide what is in the best interest of the child with preference included.
Child custody lawyers stress that like all other parts of divorce and custody processes, conservatorship and child preference are always considered on a case-by-case basis.
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1800 West Bowie Street, Suite 200-E
Fort Worth TX 76110
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.