Divorcing with young children can be very difficult because they don’t understand the change in the family. However, divorcing with older kids presents many other challenges. Teenagers might try to play parents against one another to get out of consequences for bad behavior or to gain more privileges from either parent.
However, even before that particular battle of the wills begins, you may have to worry about whether the Texas family courts will put your child on the stand as part of your divorce proceedings. For example, if you have always been the disciplinarian for the family while your spouse is very lenient, could your children’s perception of those roles impact your custody rights?
A judge will hear older children’s opinions but still makes the final call
Texas does sometimes allow older children to have a say in custody proceedings, but the courts also recognize that teenagers don’t always make the best decisions. Technically, children age 12 or older who are sufficiently mature can speak to a judge in their chambers and explain their preferences regarding custody and visitation.
However, how much impact those preferences will have is entirely up to the judge’s discretion and their analysis of your family dynamics. If the judge believes that the child’s preference stems from bullying by one parent or even from a selfish desire to have less discipline, the judge may not consider the child’s preferences when making the final decision.
Regardless of what a preteen or teenager may ask for, it is the judge’s duty to make a custody determination in the best interest of the children in the family. For most families, that will mean some degree of shared custody. Your attorney can help you seek a fair shared custody outcome.