What Age Can a Child in Texas Decide Which Parent to Live With?
Factors the Court Will Consider When Determining a Child’s Residence
In the state of Texas, a child’s decision cannot be the sole factor in determining which parent the child lives with. When the child reaches the age of 12, upon motion, the court can consider the child’s wishes when it comes to who they will live with. Primarily, the court uses the following factors to make a child custody decision:
- The age of the children
- Each parent’s wishes
- The history of each parent’s relationship with the children
- Each parent’s ability to communicate with the other parent on child-related issues
- The nature of the parent’s relationship with each other at the time of the hearing
- The nature of the relationship between the children and both parents
- Whether each parent is mentally and physically fit to care for children
- The mental and physical health of the children
- The willingness of each parent to facilitate the children’s relationship with the other parent
- Which parent has been providing the majority of physical care for the children before the divorce or separation
- Each parent’s participation in child-related activities, like medical appointments, sports, and educational activities
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable, loving environment for the children
- The distance between the parent’s homes
- Each parent’s work schedule in regard to the amount of time the parent can spend with the children
- The living accommodations at each parent’s home and whether one parent resides in the home where the child was raised
- Whether the parents can provide for the children’s physical needs, emotional wellness, and medical care
- The extent that the children would need to adjust their lives at home, at school, and in the community
- The wishes of the children if they are above the age of 12
- Any existing evidence that one of the parents has committed domestic violence, abuse, or neglect
- Substance abuse, criminal activity, or mental health concerns surrounding either parent
What Is the Difference Between Child Residency and Custody?
There are two main components to child custody: physical and legal custody. When we talk about physical custody, we are referring to a patient who has physical charge of the child in their home. This home will make up the residency for the child, which will be where they live and spend the majority of their time. Typically, a child will live with one parent more than the other parent, and the parent that the child lives with the most is responsible for the day-to-day care of the child. In this way, there is usually some overlap between physical and legal custody.
Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to a parent having the legal authority to make decisions for the child surrounding critical matters like medical care and education. Legal custody is separate from physical custody, which means it is possible for coparents to share legal custody but not share physical custody. Parents with legal custody can also make choices about the following matters for their children:
- School or child care
- Religious activities or institutions
- Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling and therapy needs
- Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and other health needs
- Sports, summer camp, vacation, or other extracurricular activities
Types of Legal Custody
There are two main types of legal custody orders: joint and sole custody. Joint custody involves a sharing of parental responsibility for the child. This means that both parents have the legal authority to make major decisions for the child like the ones above. In order for this type of custody order to be successful, the parents need to have a strong means of communication, and it helps if they are located in the same geographical area. If this is the case, joint custody can be a strong option for both the parents and children. Some of the advantages of joint custody include:
- Positive impact on the child
We know that going through major changes and separations can be stressful for the whole family, and this includes the children involved. If it is beneficial for the child to maintain a relationship with both parents, joint custody will allow them to do that in a way that makes the transition less stressful. Despite choosing to live their lives separately, joint custody gives each parent the chance to instill their values within their child and raise them according to their will. Each of the parents and the children will be able to move forward and create memories, and you might even find that the time you spend apart will make you appreciate the time you have together even more.
- Reduced feelings of guilt
When your child is able to maintain a positive relationship with their other parent, it will help the whole family reduce feelings of guilt they might have about the separation. You will get to rest assured knowing that your child is not losing a parent and can focus on growing up to be their healthiest and best selves.
- Sharing of responsibilities
Having a kid is a lot of responsibility, and when you have joint custody, not all of that responsibility will fall back on you. Joint legal custody means that both parents share the daily responsibilities that impact the child, including expenses. When you spend time with your child, you are taking care of another person, which means you are also spending more money than you would if you were alone. Having the other parent split those responsibilities with you can make the situation far less stressful.
- Structure and discipline for child and parents
The nature of joint legal custody creates a situation that encourages both parents to institute a structured, disciplined routine. This can have a positive impact on both the parents as well as the child. It can create a sense of belonging for the child and a sense of normalcy as they navigate this new chapter. It also encourages parents to communicate when it comes to rewarding and disciplining the child for their behavior.
Sole custody is a lot different from joint custody because a parent with sole custody has exclusive rights concerning the child. This type of custody arrangement is rare and is usually limited to situations in which one parent is unfit or incapable of having responsibility over the child. In sole custody situations, the child’s other parent does not have physical or legal custody rights. However, having sole custody does not necessarily mean that one parent will be able to relocate with the court’s permission. If the other parent has any visitation rights, relocation will put their rights at risk and will need to be addressed by the court. Although sole custody is usually reserved for rare cases, when it is necessary, there are a few key benefits, including the following:
- If the parents are unable to communicate properly, sole custody will reduce conflict because it will reduce their communication.
- Sole custody will allow the parent deemed fit to make major decisions with greater ease because they are the only parent that is legally responsible.
- Sole custody will create more consistency and stability for the children involved in the case that the other parent is unfit to provide that kind of support.
- Sole custody will take away the stress of having to track down an unavailable parent to make major decisions.
- Sole custody will facilitate a way to keep the children safe when one parent is not fit to make decisions due to issues like substance abuse and instability.
- Sole custody will eliminate confusion for kids if the parents have different opinions.
No matter which kind of custody agreement is right for your family, The Clark Law Firm is equipped to help create the best circumstances possible. The courts in Texas will consider your wishes, the best interests of the child, and the child’s wishes if the child is above the age of 12. We will work to fully understand the details of your situation so that we can represent your case well, keeping your child’s best interest in mind every step of the way.
To learn more about children’s role in custody agreements and other family law matters, call The Clark Law Firm at (817) 435-4970 or contact us online.