Oftentimes, a minor child’s parents find a way to agree on the terms of a child custody arrangement without judicial intervention. However, this non-contentious process isn’t right for every family. Sometimes, a history of domestic violence, gaslighting and other unhealthy behavior makes this kind of cooperation inadvisable. At other times, a child’s parents may simply not be in a position to bridge their fundamental differences on the subject of how their child’s custody order should be structured.
When evaluating contentious child custody cases, family law courts place the “best interests of the child” at the forefront of the resolution process. Assessing two sides of a child custody case according to this standard helps to protect the children involved above all other priorities. In Texas, considering an older child’s preference concerning child custody arrangements allows the judge assigned to that child’s case to better gauge what that child’s best interests actually are.
When can a child express preference in a custody case?
Children over the age of 11 are interviewed in the chambers of whatever judge has been assigned to their child custody case. Although they can express a preference for how their child custody and parenting time arrangements will be structured, the court will only treat this preference as one factor in its decision. In Texas, courts aim to uphold the best interests of the child while honoring the rights of parents who have shown ability to act in those best interests to maintain frequent and continuing contact with their children.
If you’re navigating a contentious child custody situation and your child is old enough to express their preference, it’s important to understand that this is their right under the law. Whether they prefer to remain primarily with you or with their other parent, their decision to express a preference isn’t favoritism or manipulative. It’s a tool that will allow the court to more accurately assess what their best interests are and how to protect them.