How Does The Family Court View A Child's Preferences In Custody Cases?

One aspect of divorce you and your spouse might have to face is determining who gets custody of the children. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the court can make the decision. In some instances, the judge who hears your case can rely on your child's preferences to make the decision. 

How Much Weight Are a Child's Preferences Given?

When a judge is asked to consider the preferences of a child, one of the first things he or she looks at is the age of the child. Most states have a minimum age required for a child's preferences to be considered. The age varies by state. For instance, in the state of Texas, a child 10 years of age or older can have his or her preferences considered in custodial matters. 

How much weight the judge gives your child's preferences is given depends on several factors, including how mature your child is and his or her reasoning. The weight given can vary from case to case. For instance, a child who wants to live with his or her mother only because she buys everything the child wants might not receive much consideration. By contrast, a child who wants to live with his or her father because he has a more stable income, has more time to spend with the child, and offers the discipline needed is more likely to be given consideration by the judge. 

How Does the Judge Ascertain the Child's Preferences?

In most instances, children are not required to testify in court. The experience of testifying about the merits of each parent can be traumatizing, even for older children. One way that a judge can learn what your child prefers is to appoint a managing conservator. The conservator can serve dual roles. 

The conservator can talk with your child and find out what his or her preferences are and report back to the judge. The conservator can also be responsible for helping to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The conservator's recommendation is usually given significant weight by the judge. In some states, the child can pick the conservator. For instance, children 10 years of age and older in Texas can name their conservator. The court can overrule the child though and select someone else. 

Child custody matters can be complex and emotional. To help you navigate your state's laws and ensure that your child's best interests are considered, it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney like LaCroix & Hand PC