At What Age Can a Child Decide which Parent to Live with?
Children in a divorce face uncertainties and fears that are all the more challenging because they have virtually no power. As minors, they are accustomed to having their parents make choices on their behalf. Unless abuse exists in the home, however, few children feel that a divorce is in their best interests. It is all the more important, therefore, that they be provided reassurance during this difficult time. Bryan family law attorneys can help you negotiate issues pertaining to child custody and support. But how much power do children have over deciding these matters?
Are There Misconceptions about the Texas Family Code?
The past fifty years have brought considerable change to the American family. It is common knowledge that about half of all marriages in the United States today end in divorce. Laws related to divorce and distribution of assets have been altered to reflect the changing needs of the parties to a marriage. One matter that will never change, however, is for children in a divorce to be and feel secure. Family courts in this state recognize that the needs of children are to come first.
It is thought by some that at one time the Texas Family Code allowed children of a divorcing couple who are age 12 or older to decide which parent to live with. This is a misconception. Rather, the law allowed for children in this age range to file a letter with the court which stated their preferences. This letter, however, carried no legal weight, and the judge was free to completely disregard it when rendering the decision of where the child would live.
How Much Influence Do Children Have?
The statute mentioned previously, 153.009, was eventually repealed because many parents were taking undue advantage of it. Often both parents in a divorce would write a letter ostensibly on behalf of the children and make them sign it. Rather than protecting the wishes of the children, therefore, the children were put in the middle of a legal battle.
The statute was replaced with one which gives children a voice, but no actual power over the judge's decision on custody. The process for this new law is as follows:
- The children ask a parent to request a meeting between the judge and the children.
- The judge is required to meet with the children if they are age 12 or older. If they are younger, the judge can choose whether or not to meet with them.
- The judge then decides whether or not to follow the wishes expressed by the children. There is no legal requirement for the judge to do so.
Ultimately, then, children age 12 or over can require a judge to consider their wishes, but they have no real power over the judge's ruling. It is only when children reach majority status, or adulthood, that they can choose which parent to live with.
For Assistance if You Are Dealing with a Child Custody Matter
If you are divorcing and/or are dealing with a child custody issue, it is very important that you have the representation of experienced and knowledgeable Bryan family law attorneys. Call Peterson Law Group today at 979-703-7014 or 936-337-4681.