Can a 13-Year-Old Choose Sides in Custody Matters?

Family law is rife with emotional and complex issues that often aren’t easy for anyone to handle, but it can be especially hard for any Austin, Texas child involved in a separation. Getting divorced means more than just separating when you have kids because no matter what happens, you’ll both still have this connection through a shared child. You may be wondering how much of a say your older children will have when it comes to the courts determining which parent should have custody of the child and what types of custody arrangements are possible. You may also be wondering, “Can children choose which parent to live with in Texas?” Under Texas law, one party in the custody suit can request the court to interview any child who is at least 12 years old about their wishes in custody. The court will need to make a decision which is in the best interest of the child, but the child has the opportunity to have their preference heard.


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Misconceptions Of Texas Child Custody and Older Children

Child Custody Factors

One of the biggest questions asked is, does a 13-year-old have a say in custody matters? The answer is that while your teenage child doesn’t get to decide ultimately which parent should have custody of them, they do get to let the courts know how they feel about everything going on, what parent they think they want to live with, and why. Typically, the Texas courts are looking to place the child in the best situation to help them succeed in life when it comes to school, social groups, sports, and other extracurriculars the child is involved in. You may also be wondering, “What age does a child have a say in custody in Texas?” Although children can’t decide which parent they want to live with until they are 18, children who are 12 and older have a say in where they would prefer to live. The Texas judge will make the final decision and parents and children are legally obligated to abide by the custody order as long as the child is a minor. This means the minor child can’t make any decisions regarding custody or visitation until they are 18.

Texas Child Custody Child Interview

In the past, there was a Designation of Preference form that children over the age of 12 could sign that would name which parent they would choose to live with. However, this form is no longer used. It was worried that the child would feel uncomfortable signing off on this type of form and that it could cause friction between the parents and the child. So, now rather than a form, there is a court interview done by the judge. This interview only happens if the parents haven’t agreed on who should be the child’s primary conservator. During the interview, the Texas judge will ask the child about who they want to live with, what type of visitation arrangement they would wish to have in place, and if there are any other issues involving custody.

Will My Child Have to Be Interviewed in Texas?

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If there is no agreement between you and your ex, then your child may go through the interview process. For children under the age of 12, your child may or may not be interviewed for this process. It’s up to the court and if the judge wishes to see what your child has to say about custody. Interviews are mandatory for children that are aged 12 and up. You can get more answers on our Austin child support laws page.

Who Stays During the Child Interview?

In some situations, the court can allow for the parent’s attorneys, the guardian, or the child’s court-appointed attorney to be in the room. However, it’s not required for the court to allow these other parties into the room during the interview. In addition, for older children at 12 years of age or older, the court can have the court reporter brought into the chambers to transcribe the interview with the minor child so that there is a record of the interview.

What Actions to Take Before The Interview

The courts take interviewing your child seriously when it comes to child custody decrees, and you may be wondering what you should do before the court interview. You don’t want to do anything that could make the courts think that you are trying to manipulate your child into saying something or doing anything inappropriate to get the results you want in the interview versus what your child would say without intervention. The courts are aware of how some parents try to twist things to go in their favor, and it may impact any decisions made. Your best course of action is to speak with your family law attorney about how to prepare yourself and your child for this interview.

What Other Factors Are Taken Into Account?

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In addition to the child’s interview letting the court know about their preference, there are other factors that the Texas judge will weigh to help them determine what’s in the child’s best interests when it comes to custody matters. Any evidence given to them will be considered—for instance, any opinions of counselors or therapists the child has seen. In addition, testimony issued by their teachers, friends, coaches, and other individuals that understand what the child’s life is like in and outside of the family home will be considered in their decision. Plus, any other evidence, such as if there are any previous court orders against a parent, how much time the parents currently spend with their children, or if they have criminal records, can play a role in the judge’s decision.

Do I Need a Family Law Attorney For Custody Issues?

Having an Austin attorney near you familiar with family law and custody cases is always a good idea. They can help you develop the best strategy for gaining custody based on the evidence you can present. For instance, they can advise you on how to document what you’re doing as a parent and what’s being done by the other parent. Sometimes, it’s the evidence of your actions in raising your child and being there for them that can speak louder than anything else in a custody case. Other times, there may be evidence to submit. You may have questions such as, “Can I use a voice recording as evidence in family court?” Relying on an experienced family law lawyer gives you peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can regarding your custody case.

Contact an Experienced Texas Child Custody Lawyer Near You

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If you’re wondering does a 13-year-old have a say in custody in Texas, you may be surprised to learn that their wishes hold some weight with the courts. However, the courts often will choose to do what’s in the best interests of the child, and if staying with the fun parent that doesn’t say now is what they want, the court may not side with that if there is evidence that is why the child is choosing one parent over another. Eric M. Willie Austin Divorce Lawyer can help you when you’re in the middle of a custody battle, whether your child wants to live with you or with the other parent. Our caring team will help you come up with the best plan possible to present evidence on why you should have custody of your older child. Contact us today.

 

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