Helping Texans with a variety of family law cases, including child custody and divorce.

When Can a Child Talk to a Judge in Texas? Understanding Custody Proceedings

by | Dec 3, 2023 | Firm News

Child custody disputes often stir intense emotions, and it’s not uncommon for teenagers to express preferences about living arrangements. In Texas, it’s crucial to understand the legal framework around a child’s role in these decisions. In this article, we’ll explore when and how a child’s wishes factor into custody proceedings, debunk common misconceptions, and provide insights into Texas family law.

Debunking the Myth: Can a Child 12 or Older Choose Where to Live? Contrary to a common misconception, children aged 12 or older cannot unilaterally decide which parent to live with in Texas. More than a decade ago, a law allowed children to sign a “designation of preference” form specifying their preferred parent. However, this law was repealed (Texas Family Code 153.008) due to concerns about parental manipulation, which often placed the child in the middle of custody battles.

Current Texas Law: Expressing Custody Preferences The current law addressing a child’s custody preference is found in Texas Family Code 153.009. According to this law, a child aged 12 or older can meet with the judge in chambers to express their wishes. During this private interview, the judge can discuss primary conservatorship, visitation, and other aspects of the parent-child relationship. Importantly, the judge isn’t obligated to adopt the child’s wishes, but this interaction provides an opportunity to assess the child’s maturity and decision-making abilities.

Mandatory Custody Interview and Consideration by the Court If a parent requests the family court judge to interview a child over 12, the judge is legally obligated to conduct the interview. However, for children under 12, the interview is discretionary, allowing the judge to decide whether it’s necessary.

While a child’s custody preference is considered, it’s just one aspect of the broader equation. Texas law emphasizes the “best interest of the child” as the primary consideration in custody decisions. The Holley v. Adams case outlines the “Holley Factors” that guide judges, including the child’s desires, emotional and physical needs, parental abilities, available programs, and stability in both parents’ homes.

When Can a Child Decide Where to Live? The legal age for a child to independently decide their living arrangements is 18, when they are no longer considered a minor. Until then, the judge assumes the responsibility of making such decisions if parents cannot reach an agreement.

Empowering Non-Custodial Fathers: Advocacy and Legal Support

My commitment is to empower non-custodial fathers in Brazoria and Galveston County. I actively work towards securing equal time for my clients with their children. Whether you’re striving to establish visitation rights or facing obstacles in enforcing court-ordered periods of possession, my goal is to help you navigate these legal complexities.

Call to Action: Secure Your Parental Rights

If you’re a non-custodial father in Brazoria or Galveston County seeking legal support, don’t hesitate to reach out. I am Ben Beveridge, founder and owner of the Beveridge Law Firm, located in Alvin, Texas 77511. Having experienced the challenges of limited access to my children, I am passionate about advocating for equal parental rights. I’ve been actively involved in legislative efforts to promote equal access and have successfully handled appeals, overturning trial judges’ decisions.

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Your parental rights matter, and I am here to guide you through the legal process. Let’s work together to secure the time you deserve with your children.