Do Children Ever Have a Say in Custody Determinations?

Do Children Ever Have a Say in Custody Determinations?  Children have it tough during a divorce. They generally have to sit back and just go along for the ride even though it has a substantial effect on their lives. They often have no control over the course of their lives, which are now being complicated by a division of time between two households – maybe even in two different cities.

Family court judges in Texas and elsewhere have a responsibility to ensure the best interests of the child are being met in cases where custody is in dispute. There are several factors considered, however family courts are a unique in the aspect that judges are permitted an abundance of latitude when making decisions that affect children.

If a child is old enough by the court to voice his or her wishes, the court may absolutely include that in its final decision. Children who are at least 12 years of age may state their desire of which parent they would prefer to live with. The court still has to weigh all of the available information that has been provided, but if the child’s needs would be better served by the parent he or she wants to live with, it can make the difference in the decision.

Children can also help guide judges in making the best choice for them by testifying about their experiences related to any alleged domestic violence or child abuse in the home, and which parent handles any special needs the child has. The judge may ask about whether the child has his or her own room, what he or she thinks of the school, where his or her friends live, and other personal questions about the child’s life. What kind of role these answers play in the court’s decision is not set in stone, but it can be helpful.

Special considerations for parents when deciding child custody

Taking a scorched earth mentality to your divorce comes from anger and hurt feelings. It can be hard to see through it and focus on the big picture when it comes to being flexible on any issue, including your kids. Provided there isn’t a legitimate concern regarding abuse or neglect, there are solid reasons for taking a softer approach with custody and visitation:

  • Manipulation can backfire. Don’t try to pit your kids against your ex. This can have detrimental psychological effects on your child that can harm them for years. Not only might it damage their relationship with the other parent, but it may backfire and destroy your relationship with your child. As difficult as it may feel, your best option to get what you want long-term is to cooperate and co-parent, perhaps through the use of the collaborative divorce process rather than traditional litigation.
  • Kids benefit when both parents are involved. Texas family courts often name both parents joint managing conservators so that they both have a say in major decisions and financial responsibility regarding their children. Your children may not spend half their time with you, but you may be able to work out an agreement that gets you close to it with the help of your respective attorneys. Coming up with a reasonable compromise will help each of you feel like equal forces in your children’s lives.
  • Honesty builds mutual respect and understanding. If they are old enough to really understand what’s going on, talking with your children about their preferences may be a benefit to both you and your soon to be former spouse. It can help your relationship with them by making sure they realize their needs are just as important and that you understand that. Your kids pay attention to much more than you think they do and while it may seem harsh to hear, you should value their opinion and consider what you might need to do to make things easier for them.

Most parents are terrified of losing their children in a divorce. The best way to prevent this situation is to put your differences and personal feelings aside to come to an agreement that ensures the emotional and psychological security of your kids.

If you have children and are considering divorce, you need to choose a knowledgeable Killeen family law attorney who places importance on resolving child custody issues. Schedule your consultation with a member of our legal team at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm by calling  254-312-2523, or we invite you to visit our contact page. For your convenience we have offices located in Killeen and Copperas Cove.