When parents get divorced, they may end up sharing parenting time with their children. Some parents are able to come to an agreement about this on their own, which the court just has to approve. Other parents need the court to make a ruling and hand down a custody order so that they know exactly what to do moving forward.
Naturally, it’s expected that children will be interested in this process and may even have a preference. Do they have any say in where they live or how a custody arrangement is set up? Does a child get to choose if they’re going to live with one parent or the other?
Children can express their opinion
First of all, it’s important to note that children don’t get to simply choose where they live. They can express their opinion. If a child would prefer to spend more time with one parent or in one location, they can tell the court about that preference.
But the court is not obligated to do exactly what they say. Instead, the court will try to hand down a ruling that is in the child’s best interest. It’s going to consider things like safety, financial security, parental roles, extended family members, physical and mental health and much more. The child’s preferences are part of this equation, but that doesn’t mean that they’re definitely going to get what they asked for.
They must be at least 12 years old
Secondly, not all children are even given a chance to express their desires. They have to be old enough to really understand the process and what they are requesting. In Texas, that has been defined as 12 years old. So younger children, even if they have a preference, may not be able to enter this information in court in the way that older children or teenagers could.
A complex process
The child custody process can be very complex and undeniably consequential. Parents and children need to know exactly what legal options they have available to them, so seeking legal guidance is almost always a good idea.