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Are the wishes of children considered in child custody rulings?

One of the many questions a divorcing parent may have is whether any consideration will be given by the court to a child’s wishes related to child custody decisions. Under the Texas Family Code, a child over the age of 12 may testify in the private chambers of the judge, but the primary considerations related to child custody will be based on the best interests of the child. A mother in another state explained how frustrating it was for her daughter when the court refused to let the girl testify in her parents’ divorce proceedings.

The daughter was 13 years old at the time and believed that she and her siblings were the only people who really knew the circumstances they endured. In five court hearings, her wishes to be heard were apparently ignored by the court. She is now 17 and maintains that the post-divorce of of her and her siblings lives would have benefited from her testimony, had it been heard.

While teenagers may firmly believe that they know best, any decisions made about child custody in court will be that of the court (absent an acceptable agreement between the parents). The only way a child — age 12 or older — can express his or her preferences to a Texas court will be through a private meeting with the judge in his or her office. The judge will interview the child and take note of his or her preferences related to living arrangements and custody, as well as visitation, but the child’s wishes will generally not control the decisions made by the judge.

Any Texas resident who is considering divorce but is concerned about how the court’s child custody rulings will affect the children may benefit from seeking the support and guidance of an experienced divorce attorney. If the children have specific concerns that they wish to bring to the court’s attention, the attorney can address those matters during litigation. A lawyer will advocate on behalf of the client with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome under the specific circumstances.

Source: kimt.com, “Special Report: Kids in court”, Emily Boster, May 25, 2016

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