Addressing a child’s preference in a custody case

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One of the factors that Texas courts can consider when determining child custody is the preference of the child. This doesn’t always happen, particularly if the child is under 12, but parents should understand and respect the fact that a child can have a say in his or her own future.

That being said, there are numerous ways parents can help their child through this difficult process. There are also things parents can do to make an already bad situation even worse for both themselves and their child.

If the courts interview your child regarding his or her preference, you should be prepared for what you should and should not do under these circumstances.

Parents should:

  • Make sure a child knows you will love him or her no matter what the preference may be
  • Commit to complying with whatever custody plan results from the hearing or trial
  • Remember that other factors will be considered in addition to a child’s preference to determine what is in his or her best interests
  • Understand that having to choose between parents can be traumatic, especially for younger children

Parents should not:

  • Attempt to manipulate or coerce a child
  • Assume that the child’s wishes will trump other relevant factors. In some cases, courts may not put much weight on a child’s preference at all.
  • Punish a child physically or emotionally for preferring the other parent
  • Request the courts to interview a child if it is not necessary; it can be in everyone’s best interests to resolve custody matters outside of court.

Determining child custody after divorce can be very upsetting for parents. However, it can also be very painful for children, regardless of whether they express their preference or not. Parents should keep this in mind and take steps to avoid causing any avoidable conflict or trauma.

One way to do this is to focus on the long-term impact of a custody case rather than short-term “wins.” With this perspective, it can be easier to pursue amicable solutions that truly preserve the best interests of your child.

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