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At What Age Does a Child Choose a Parent to Live With? 

Robin Scott Law Firm, PLLC Oct. 14, 2022

For many parents, the worst part of divorce or separation is watching their children go through it. Their lives, like yours, will never be the same. Parents can choose to make the transition as smooth as possible for their children or choose to use them as pawns during the process.  

The court has a responsibility to make decisions based on what it believes is in the best interest of the children. Among all the factors the judge must weigh in making determinations about the conservatorship of the children is their preference about which parent they want to live with. That preference can be a difficult thing for a parent to hear.  

Robin Scott understands. She faced a battle for custody of her own children, which is why Robin Scott Law Firm, PLLC is dedicated to helping other parents fight the good fight for what they believe is best for their children. If you are facing a child custody issue in Spring, Texas, or in Harris County, Montgomery County, or Fort Bend County, she can help.  

What Are the Options for Child Custody in Texas? 

The first thing you should know about child custody in Texas is the terminology. “Custody” is referred to as “conservatorship” under Texas law. There are two types of conservatorships: managing and possessory.  

Managing conservatorship, formerly referred to as “legal custody,” determines who makes vital decisions about children’s lives. These include decisions about their education, medical treatment, religious practices, and participation in activities and events, among others.  

The court will usually award joint managing conservatorship, which means that parents share the responsibility for making these types of decisions. If one parent doesn’t want to bear this responsibility, or if they have history of physical or substance abuse or have divisive views or moral standards, the court might order sole managing conservatorship to one parent.  

Possessory conservatorship relates to which parent the child will live with. The court will make decisions regarding the other parent’s visitation, also referred to as parenting time determination, so long as the time spent with that parent is in the best interest of the child. There is a presumption that a child is best served by having a relationship with both parents unless a parent poses a risk of some kind to the child’s health or emotional well-being.  

The parent with possessory conservatorship gets to decide where the child lives. The exception to this would be if, when a child is old enough to choose, they choose to live with the other parent.  

If you and your family law attorney can forge a custody agreement with the other parent, the court will need to approve it. If you and the other parent cannot agree to the terms, the court will decide.  

How Does the Court Determine Child Custody in Texas? 

The prevailing motivation for the court is the best interest of the child. To determine that, the court considers factors affecting the life of a child after the parents are no longer together, beginning with each parent’s ability to parent the child, the plans each parent has for the child, the relationship each parent has with the child, and the stability of each parent’s home. If there is any evidence that a parent is not responsible enough to parent the child, or if a parent cannot put their own feelings aside for the sake of the child, the court will weigh that in its custody decisions. 

Of course, the court will assess such factors as these based on the child’s current and future emotional and physical needs. Finally, the court will at least consider the preference of the child regarding conservatorship issues.  

Can a Child Determine Which Parent They Want to Live With? 

The answer to this question is “yes,” under certain circumstances. However, the ultimate decision regarding the conservatorship of a minor rests with the court.  

The court will consider the child’s wishes regarding managing and possessory conservatorship at any age, although those wishes are considered based on the maturity of the child expressing them. The older the child, the more weight their wishes will bring to bear on the court’s decision.  

In Texas, if a child is age 12 or older, an attorney may request that the court interview the child about their wishes. The court must comply with the request and conduct an interview in the judge’s chambers. The parents’ attorneys may be allowed to observe, but the parents will not.  

At what age can a child choose which parent to live with? That would be the age of majority which is 18 in Texas. At age 18, children are no longer minors and as such, are allowed to make this decision for themselves.  

Children granted emancipation as a minor by a court can also choose which parent to live with and whether they want to spend time with a parent. To qualify for emancipation, children must be age 17 or age 16 and living independently, and managing their own financial and other affairs.  

Skilled & Compassionate Counsel 

As a parent, Robin Scott endured a contentious custody battle. As a family law attorney serving Spring, Texas, and the surrounding areas, she has used her experience and legal resources to help other parents facing conservatorship challenges.  

If you are such a parent, contact Robin Scott Law Firm, PLLC now to schedule a time to discuss the battle you’re facing. Being prepared is half the fight. Begin today.