When Can a Child Decide Who They Live With ?

The short answer is — when they are no longer a child. Until a child is 18 years old, the Court orders determine who the child lives with. There is no magic age when a child gets to determine where they live. Texas law does not leave this important decision to a child.

If the parents of the child cannot reach agreements as to where the child will live, the Court will do so. Ultimately, the Court will render an order that the Court believes is in the child’s best interest. 
There are some options available to help a Court understand the child’s preferences, before the Court determines what is in the child’s best interest.

requested by a parent in a non-jury trial, the judge can interview a child to determine what the child’s preferences are regarding who the child wants to live with. If the child is at least 12 years old the judge is required to interview the child if requested by a parent. Under the age of 12 the judge may, but is not required to, interview the child regarding the child’s preferences. While the judge is not required to do what the child wants, the judge will consider the information from the interview along with all of the other evidence and testimony from the trial when rendering the Court’s orders.

Participating in the process by being interviewed by the judge allows the child to feel like their preferences were heard and considered. These interviews are almost always conducted without attorneys or parents present so that the child is not pressured or punished by the parents. 
While the child does not get to determine where he or she will be ordered to live, if the child’s preferences make sense to the judge those preferences may be honored by the Court.

Additionally, how an attorney presents the testimony and evidence in Court can make the difference in what the Court thinks is in the child’s best interest. Experience matters! Hire an experienced child custody attorney that can help you present a well-thought-out and persuasive case for where your child lives. Call Robin R. Zegen today to discuss your options.