How Does a Child’s Preference Affect Custody?

It’s not easy to make decisions about splitting time with your children. Asking children to participate in the custody process is a delicate issue, and the emotional toll on parents can be overwhelming.

Under Texas law, a child’s wishes regarding custody or parenting time are not taken into account if the child is under 12 years old. For many parents, they may wonder what happens when a child turns 12 or is already old enough to express a preference. How does a child’s opinion factor in to a custody determination?

The Best Interests of the Child

When it comes to child custody, the court’s concern is always to do what’s in the best interests of the children. The court has discretion in making that determination. That means the court always makes the final decision regarding things like custody and visitation.

Once you understand the court’s position, it may become clear how the court treats a child’s input in custody decisions. Children, particularly older children, have opinions about what they should or should not be allowed to do. Parents and other responsible adults should use their judgment and experience to analyze those opinions.

One Factor to Consider

A child’s opinion regarding custody or visitation does matter. That said, not all 12-year-old children are the same. One child’s opinion may be taken more seriously than another’s. It should be obvious that many 12-year-olds are not mature enough to make serious life decisions.

Most likely, you don’t give your 12-year-old child total decision-making authority. Most don’t get to make their own decisions about where to go and when. As a result, it’s common for children to experience frustration about not being able to make their own decisions.

The courts appreciate this reality. When determining what’s in a child’s best interests, they’ll take the child’s opinion into account.

Bribery or Parental Alienation

Parents have a right to be concerned about how their children’s input is considered during the custody process. Children may prefer a parent who lets them play video games or eat junk food. However, if parents run a tight ship at home, they should be free to do what they believe is best for their children without worrying that it will make them unpopular.

Another issue is parental alienation. If one parent pours energy into getting the child to hate or fear the other parent, that child could respond by asking to have custody shifted in a specific direction. Parental alienation is harmful to children. It’s almost never in a child’s best interest to have one parent poisoning their relationship with the other parent.

Contact Schneider Law Firm in Arlington Today

If you have any questions about child custody or how to incorporate your child’s wishes into your parenting plan, our attorneys can help. Contact the Arlington offices of Schneider Law Firm at 817-799-7125 to schedule a consultation.

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