How Much Weight Do Texas Courts Place on Custody Wishes of the Children?
As a general rule, both parents know what is best for their children, but when parents decide to divorce, their opinions often diverge when it comes to child custody decisions. Many factors go into determining the best interests of the children, and judges may want to hear from the children to find out where the they to live — assuming that they are mature enough to make well-considered choices.
Section 153.009 of the Texas Family Code pertaining to conservatorship, possession and access specifically addresses the process of interviewing children in chambers. An understanding of this process might help parents recognize the importance of using a cooperative spirit to negotiate these terms in advance.
How the Interview Process of Children Works
While a number of parties (such as amicus attorneys or attorneys ad litem for the child) can request an interview of some or all children, judges can order the interview of children in chambers based solely on their own discretion. Most typically, the children are age 12 or older, but they can sometimes be younger, when deemed appropriate.
During the interview, the judge focuses solely on the best interests of the child, considering a child’s response based on factors that include (but are not limited to) the following:
- A child’s ability to express his or her wishes
- The reasoning behind those wishes
- The maturity that the child shows
- Psychological signs pointing to the need for one parent over the other
Of course, an interview only represents one piece of evidence that a judge considers when deciding custody issues. The weight that an interview holds in the final decision can be anything from substantial to inconsequential.
Divorcing Parents Can Help Their Children Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Seeking the preferences of more mature children can be beneficial to them long after the divorce is finalized. However, no rule states that their preferences can only be expressed when a judge wants to hear their opinions.
This is one reason why an experienced Dallas child custody attorney encourages divorcing parents to use a cooperative approach to negotiate the best long-term solution for the children. When appropriate, parents who focus on the best interests of the children will consider the children’s preferences in their decisions.
Still, asking children to take sides in divorce can also create stressful circumstances for the entire family. Contact us for the guidance needed to handle this situation with the delicacy that the children deserve.