Whether your child lives with you or lives with your ex-spouse can be an emotional and debated issue. The answer to whether your child can influence the judge’s custody decision is ─ in some situations, yes.
When your child is 12 years old or older, the court can consider your child’s opinion. Judges can also, at their own discretion, decide to interview a child who is younger than 12 years old.
Recent changes in the Texas Family Code now require that judges interview children in chambers. Prior to the change, judges received a written statement of the child’s preference about primary residence.
The reason for this change was to give the judge a better opportunity to evaluate the child’s opinion. While a signed document is easier on a child, when interviewing a child face-to-face, a judge has a better chance to see whether a parent coerced or influenced the child. The interview in chambers is to help the court decide, as accurately as possible, what is in your child’s best interests.
You, your spouse, or your child’s attorney can request to have the judge hear the child’s preference regarding primary residence. To assist them, courts sometimes assign legal counsel to children called an amicus attorney or guardian ad litem, and the attorney helps children express their wishes. Your child can have the attorney present during the interview with the judge in chambers. The court through its own motion can also decide to interview the child. Upon a motion from either party or the court, the discussion in chambers can also become part of public record.
The judge has the last word on deciding which parent has the right to determine primary residence, and the judge’s decision is not necessarily what your child prefers. It will be whatever the judge determines is in your child’s best interests.
If you have questions, give us a call. Our attorneys at C.E. Borman & Associates can answer your questions, explain your options and discuss how custody law applies to your case.