A child's choice in custody decisions

There is a wealth of information about child custody issues and Texas family law on the Internet. Unfortunately, some of it is not accurate.

A quick Internet search will deliver multiple sources that assert that at age 12, children get to choose which parent they want to live with in Texas. This is misleading and can lead to a lot of heartache for parents, frustration for children and headaches for the courts. In fact, Texas family courts can consider the child's wishes at any age, but the child's wishes are not the only factor the court considers when making custody decisions.

Texas law uses the term "conservatorship" to refer to custody. In all conservatorship decisions, courts base their decision on the best interest of the child. In determining the best interest of the child, courts can consider the child's safety, any history of domestic violence or sexual abuse and a number of other factors. One of these factors is the child's expressed wishes about where they want to live.

The law provides some guidelines for how the court can talk to the child about their wishes, and there are some special provisions governing how courts must handle this kind of discussion with children under age 12. However, the law does not say that only children 12 and older can express their wishes about where to live, nor does it say that the child's wishes are the only factor the court must consider.

Parents, grandparents and others who need help with custody issues can talk to a skilled family law attorney. A lawyer can help them understand their rights, review their legal options and develop a plan that respects their needs and wishes, and most importantly, promotes the child's best interests.

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