Children’s Wishes in Custody Actions
In Texas child-custody actions, the courts are guided by the principle that they must rule in the best interest of the child. In other words, they must make custody determinations that promote the child's safety, stability, and overall well-being. The courts will consider many factors in evaluating what custody arrangement will benefit a child, including, in some cases, the child’s wishes. If you are in the process of determining your parental rights, it is important to understand how the courts evaluate children's wishes in custody actions, and you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The skilled Dallas child-custody attorneys of McClure Law Group have extensive experience helping parents protect their interests in legal proceedings, and if you retain our services, we will set forth compelling arguments in your favor.Texas Law Regarding Children’s Wishes in Custody Actions
The Texas Family Code (the “Code”) permits the courts to involve a child in custody decisions and mandates this involvement once a child is of sufficient age and maturity to express their preferences (if either side requests the involvement).
More specifically, the Code states that in nonjury custody trials or hearings, if requested by a party, amicus attorney, or child's attorney, a child aged 12 or older must be interviewed in the judge's chambers to ascertain their preferences regarding conservatorship or primary residence determination. Further, the Code provides that if a child is 12 years old or older, their preference regarding which parent has the exclusive right to determine their primary residence is one of the factors the courts should evaluate in determining what is in the child’s best interest. In other words, the courts will take children’s wishes as to which parent they live with into consideration in custody actions.
For children under 12, the courts have discretion as to whether to conduct such interviews in chambers. The court is permitted to conduct such an interview, but is not required to do so if it feels that the interview would not be in the child’s best interest. The court can also initiate interviews for specific reasons. Any interview conducted does not lessen the court’s duty and authority to rule to make a custody determination that is in the child’s best interests, however.
In nonjury trials or hearings, the court can also interview a child to gather their opinions on possession, access, or other issues related to parent-child relationships. In jury trials, such interviews are not allowed on issues where a party is entitled to a jury verdict. The child's attorney, guardian ad litem, or relevant attorneys can be present during the interview. When a child is 12 or older, upon request or court initiative, a record of the interview must be created and included in the case record.
When a child articulates their preference for a particular custody arrangement, the court evaluates various factors to determine how much weight to assign to those wishes, including the child's age, maturity, and the reasoning behind their preference. Older children who can provide well-reasoned explanations for their choices are more likely to have their wishes considered.
In sum, children’s wishes in custody actions are merely one of the factors the courts consider when deciding how parental rights will be divided. The court assesses the overall context, including the child's safety, the ability of each parent to provide care, and any potential external influences that might be swaying the child's opinion. Ultimately, the courts are not required to follow a child’s wishes.Meet With a Trusted Dallas Attorney
Children's wishes in custody actions hold significance in Texas, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. The ultimate goal is to craft a custody arrangement that provides a positive and stable environment for the child's growth and development. If you have questions regarding how a custody case may impact your parental rights, it is smart to meet with an attorney. The trusted Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group can assess the facts of your case and inform you of your options for seeking a favorable result. Our primary office is in Dallas, and we can meet clients for appointments at our Collin-County office in Plano. We regularly represent parties in child custody matters in Dallas, Fort Worth, Rockwall, Frisco, McKinney, Irving, Richardson, and Garland. We also assist people with family-law disputes in cities in Dallas, Collin, Denton, Rockwall, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can contact us by calling 214.692.8200 or using our form online to set up a confidential consultation.