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Can a Child Decide What Parent to Live with in Texas?


Are you a divorced or separated parent of a young child or a teenager in Texas? If so, you may be wondering: Does a child have the right to choose what parent they want to live with? The answer is “it depends”—while the child never has the full right to make the final decision, in Texas, older and more mature kids (12+) are often allowed to give their input. Within this article, our San Antonio child custody lawyer highlights the key things to know about when a kid can decide which parent to live with in Texas.

Background: Texas is a Best Interests of the Child State

As described by the State Bar of Texas, courts use the “best interests of the child” standard to resolve matters of custody and visitation (conservatorships and possession/access). In resolving these types of issues—including when figuring out where a child will live—Texas courts must determine what arrangement is best for a child’s health, safety, and emotional well-being.

Custody Factor: Preference of the Child (12 Years of Age and Up)

For older kids and teens, the court will seek input on custody. Under Texas law (Texas Family Code Sec. 153.009), a court in a custody case can “interview in chambers a child 12 years of age or older” for the purposes of determining “the child’s wishes” as to “the person who shall have the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.

In other words, when a child is 12 years of age or older, a court will generally seek their input on where they want to live. When this happens, the child will almost never testify in open court. Instead, the child will be interviewed within the privacy of the judge’s chambers. The judge can ask for their preference and get information as to their reasons why they have the preference.

Key Limitation: Child Does Not Make Final Choice

It is important to emphasize that the children do not get the final choice of where they live. A court will seek the preference if they are 12 years of age or older. A court will also give strong weight to the preference—especially when a child/teenager can clearly articulate themselves and have sound reasoning. However, child preference is just one factor. The court will still consider the totality of the circumstances. A Texas judge could even disregard a child’s preferences outright if doing so is deemed to be in their best interests.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With Our San Antonio Child Custody Lawyer

At Hoelscher Gebbia Cepeda, PLLC, our San Antonio child custody attorneys invest the time, the resources, and the attention to the small details to help parents find solutions that work. If you have any questions about whether a child can decide where to live, we are here to help. Reach out to us by phone or contact us online to set up your confidential case review. From our San Antonio office, we provide child custody representation to parents throughout South Central Texas.