Can Children in Texas Choose Which Parent They Want to Live With?
In Texas child custody disputes, both parents claim to have the child’s best interests at heart. The child’s actual desires are remarkably absent from these discussions. That might seem odd, but children have parents for a reason: kids tend not to make good decisions. They may favor the parent who buys more toys, has fewer rules, or who doesn’t make them go to school. Indeed, it might take years or even decades for a child to realize the hard daily work that went into gently enforcing boundaries and helping the child grow into a healthy adult.
That’s why children can’t make child custody decisions. Here’s what you need to know about children choosing where they want to live after divorce in Texas.
At What Age Can a Child Choose Where to Live?
Texas does not allow children to choose where to live at any age. After the age of 12, however, the court may consider the child’s wishes in conjunction with other factors. An attorney can submit details of the child’s wishes as a motion to the court. The court will then weigh other factors and make a decision. If the child prefers to live with a parent who is capable of taking care of them, the court may honor the child’s wish. But if the child chooses no longer to live with an obviously superior parent, the court does not have to honor this desire.
This is why it’s important for parents to focus on providing an objectively healthy and safe environment—not poisoning a child against their ex. Children need both parents, and turning a child against their other parent can be profoundly damaging to the child’s psyche. Don’t use your child as a bargaining chip in divorce, and don’t use your child to hurt your spouse.
Can a Younger Child Weigh in on the Decision?
Courts don’t have to consider the wishes of younger children because younger children may not be able to make well-reasoned decisions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a child has to spend time with a parent they hate or fear. It’s the job of a parent to advocate for the needs of younger children. So if a parent is unable to provide a safe environment, is abusive, or is otherwise incompetent, the parent must show the court why it is in the child’s best interests to have only limited or supervised time with the other parent.
You should not try to do this alone, especially if your ex has a history of abuse. Divorce law is complicated and ever changing, so it’s important to work with a skilled Texas child custody lawyer.
Texas Child Custody Factors
Texas child custody decisions are made not based on gender, religion, what the child wants, or similar factors. There’s one standard, and one standard only: the child’s best interests. Texas courts use a standard possession order that gives most non-custodial parents significant visitation. But even this is not presumed. Instead, the court looks at various factors to determine what is truly best for the child. These factors might include:
- The ability of each parent to preserve a loving relationship with the other parent.
- How much time each parent spent with the child before the divorce, or is able to spend with the child now.
- The relative parenting competence of each parent.
- Any history of abuse.
- Whether each parent can provide a safe and nurturing environment.
- The role of other family members, such as grandparents.
- The emotional health and fitness of each parent.
We can help you advocate for your child’s best interests. You need a skillful attorney on your team fighting for your child and your family. Give us a call today to learn how we can help you.
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