Child custody cases are often complex, involving decisions that can profoundly impact the lives of the children involved. In Texas, as in many states, the court may consider the child’s wishes about which parent to live with and when.
However, there are specific guidelines and considerations in place that help determine whether a child has a say in the matter.
How age and maturity factor in
In Texas, the child’s age and maturity level determine if he or she has a say in a custody case. Older children and teenagers are more likely to have their preferences taken into account by the court. Texas courts typically begin considering a child’s opinion around the age of 12 or 13.
How the “best interests of the child” come into play
Texas law mandates that the primary factor in any child custody case is the best interests of the child. While courts may weigh a child’s wishes, they always prioritize what is in the child’s best interests. Even if a child expresses a strong preference for one parent, the court will assess whether that choice aligns with the child’s overall well-being.
How a guardian ad litem helps
In some cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, an impartial individual whose role is to represent the child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem may speak with the child and assess his or her preferences and concerns before presenting this information to the court. This allows the child’s voice to come through via a neutral party.
With Forbes reporting that half of all first marriages end in divorce and even more second or third marriages do the same, the number of children involved in custody cases nationwide is considerable. Giving children of a certain age and maturity level a chance to voice their preferences may help streamline the process for many families.