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At What Age Can a Child Be a Part of the Custody Agreement?

12/14/23

Our Texas family lawyer outlines below when the court will hear the preference of a child during custody proceedings.

Of all the different terms of divorce, child custody issues are among the most emotional. In these cases, it is not uncommon for a child to have a preference to live with one parent over the other. This is particularly true when the child is a teenager. In Texas, children are not permitted to make the decision unilaterally. Still, there are times when the court will consider a child’s preference. Below, our Texas family lawyer explains further.

When Can a Child Express a Preference in Child Custody Hearings?

It is a common misconception in Texas that children over the age of 12 years old can express their preference in custody situations. The misunderstanding stems from the fact that, at one time, over ten years ago, the law in Texas allowed children over the age of 12 to sign a ‘designation of preference,’ which outlined the parent they wanted to live with.

However, the law was repealed. It was found that the form had the opposite effect of what it intended to do. One or both parents would sometimes encourage a child to sign the form stating a preference, which placed them directly in the middle of the child custody battle. It is very harmful to children to be directly involved with these proceedings.

Today, a child who is 12 years of age or older can have a say in custody matters. However, the proceedings are much different than they once were.

How Can Children 12 Years or Older Express Their Preferences?

Today, children 12 years of age or older can express their custody preference. This is done through a private interview in the judge’s chambers. The judge will ask the child about their wishes regarding primary conservatorship, visitation, and any other issue pertaining to the relationship between the child and each parent. The judge will also evaluate the child’s maturity level and their ability to make sound decisions.

Judges do not have to comply with a child’s preference, but they will take it into consideration. When a child is 12 years of age or older, and the parents request an interview, judges are required to conduct one. If a child is under the age of 12 and either parent requests an interview, the judge has the discretion to determine whether one will take place.

Our Family Lawyer in Texas Can Help with Your Custody Dispute

Child custody disputes are complicated, emotional, and stressful for everyone involved. At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, our Texas family lawyer can make the process easier. We will help you navigate the process, negotiate with the other side, and give you the best chance of a favorable outcome. Call us now at (210) 222-9132 or fill out our online form to request a consultation with one of our attorneys and to learn more about how we can help with your case.