Dependable Legal Counsel for You & Your Family When You Need It Most SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

At What Age Does a Child Get to Choose Which Parent to Live with in Texas?

Sinclair Law Group, PC July 1, 2024

Divorced parents arguing about child custody on light backgroundDivorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. One of the toughest decisions parents face is determining where their child will live. In Texas, this decision is influenced by various factors, including the child's age, preference, and best interests.  

At Sinclair Law Group, PC, we understand the emotional and practical implications of child custody decisions. Our goal is to guide you through this challenging process with compassion and expertise. Our lead attorney has years of experience helping families in Forney, Texas, and surrounding areas, including Kaufman County, Rockwall County, and Dallas County.  

As your family law attorney, Shauna Sinclair can help you understand how child custody is determined in Texas, how a child’s preference is considered, and what role parental alienation can play in these decisions. We’ll also offer practical advice for navigating the legal process.  

Understanding Custody in Texas 

In Texas, child custody is legally referred to as conservatorship. There are two types of conservatorship: 

  1. Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) – Both parents share decision-making responsibilities. 

  1. Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC) – One parent has the exclusive right to make certain decisions about the child’s life. 

Visitation Rights 

Visitation, known as possession and access in Texas, outlines the schedule for when each parent spends time with the child. The court typically encourages frequent and continuing contact between the child and both parents, unless it’s not in the child’s best interest. 

Factors Considered by the Court 

When determining custody, Texas courts consider several factors, such as: 

  • The child’s physical and emotional needs 

  • Each parent’s ability to meet those needs 

  • The stability of each parent’s home environment 

  • The child’s relationship with each parent 

  • Any history of family violence or substance abuse 

The Best Interest of the Child Standard 

Texas courts prioritize the well-being of the child above all else. This standard, known as the "best interest of the child," guides all custody decisions. 

The court evaluates each parent’s ability to provide a nurturing and stable environment. This includes considering the child’s mental and physical health, educational needs, and overall happiness.  

Parents should focus on demonstrating their commitment to the child's well-being. This can include maintaining a stable home, being actively involved in the child’s life, and fostering a positive relationship between the child and the other parent. 

At What Age Can a Child Choose? 

While there is no specific age at which a child can choose which parent to live with in Texas, the court may consider a child's preference if they are 12 years or older. However, the child’s preference is just one of many factors the court considers. Also, a child does not get to choose when and for how long to visit the other parent until the child becomes 18.

Factors the Court Considers 

When a child expresses a preference, the court considers: 

  • The child’s age and maturity level 

  • The reasons for the child’s preference 

  • Whether the preference is in the child’s best interest 

Although the court may consider a younger child's preference, it is generally more significant when the child is 12 years or older. 

The Role of Parental Alienation 

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent. This can have severe emotional and psychological impacts on the child. 

Legal and Emotional Impacts 

In Texas, the court takes allegations of parental alienation seriously. If proven, it can affect custody decisions, as the court aims to protect the child from harmful behavior. 

Addressing Parental Alienation in Court 

If you suspect parental alienation, gather evidence such as text messages, emails, or witness statements. Legal representation is crucial in presenting your case effectively. 

Navigating the Legal Process 

Hiring an experienced family law attorney like Shauna Sinclair is essential. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, advocate for your rights, and help you make informed decisions. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods 

Consider mediation or collaborative law to resolve custody disputes amicably. These methods can reduce conflict and promote a cooperative co-parenting relationship. 

Preparing for Court 

If your case goes to court, be prepared to provide evidence supporting your claims. This can include documentation, witness testimony, and expert opinions. 

Reach Out to Us for Family Law Assistance 

Child custody decisions are among the most challenging aspects of divorce. Understanding Texas law, focusing on the best interests of the child, and seeking professional guidance can help you navigate this difficult process.  

At Sinclair Law Group, PC, we are committed to supporting you every step of the way. With our compassionate approach and extensive experience, we can help you achieve a favorable outcome for you and your child.  

If you need assistance with your child custody case, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Schedule a consultation with Shauna Sinclair today and take the first step toward securing your child’s future. 

Our firm, Sinclair Law Group, PC, is located in Forney and Rockwall, Texas, but our reach extends to families throughout Kaufman County, Rockwall County, and Dallas County.