Child custody and visitation, referred to in Texas as conservatorship and possession, are almost always sensitive subjects. Children may feel tossed about and as though they have no voice if their parents are arguing over their custody.
According to the Texas Family Code, at age 12, a child is mature enough to express to the Judge their preference concerning which parent will have primary conservatorship; however, no child has the final say in where they will live primarily. Only a Judge has the right to make that determination if the parents are not in agreement.
How it Works
If either parent requests it, the Judge is obligated to meet with a child or the children who are at least 12 years old to hear which parent they prefer to live with. For children under the age of 12, the court has the discretion to hear them but is not obligated to. For issues concerning possession and access, the Judge has the discretion to meet with the children to get their input.
Different counties handle obtaining this information differently. One of two approaches is generally used.
- Family court services.
- The Judge asks the county office of family court services to interview the child and write a report. The report is given to the Judge. While each attorney will be able to review the report, it must be handled discreetly and confidentially. It is reviewed in the courtroom and the attorneys are not allowed to make any copies of it. The report is not shared with the parents. The court does not want any child to suffer because a parent is unhappy with the child’s response.
- The Judge personally interviews the child.
- Some Judges prefer to interview the child themselves. The Judge listens to the child’s preference and also discerns whether one parent has been exerting influence over that child in ways that might affect the child’s choice.
Where Does the Meeting Take Place and Are the Attorneys Present?
The Judge has the discretion to allow the attorneys to be present along with a court reporter. Generally, though, that is not allowed because the Judge does not want the children to feel intimidated.
Judges most often will interview the child in their office, so it is more child-friendly than the courtroom. Even so, Judges will generally wear their black robes during the interview so the child is reminded that the Judge is the authority who will make the final decisions about custody and possession.
For More Information About Divorce Contact an Experienced Dallas Family Law Attorney.
To schedule a free initial consultation with a Dallas Family Law Attorney, contact Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices at 214-420-1800.