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Can Children Decide Where They Live?

Texas law prohibits a child from choosing which parent he or she will live with after a divorce. But a child’s preference is important — to the parents, to the court, and most of all, to the child.

At the quiet center of any divorce storm reside children. Pulled this way and that, children receive conflicting information and yet are expected to soldier on, accept change and live happily in fragmented households.

Parents who see only their own best interests create a schism in their children. As children struggle with loss, they realize the way of life they thought unshakeable has now dissolved.

Routinely, parents assume children pick up and move on, that they will deal with it. But children do not — they compartmentalize, grieve, make deals in their minds as to how and why this happened to them. And they remember.

If parents cannot reach an agreement on a parenting plan, the court will make conservatorship decisions for them relying on best interests factors of the children at issue. One of those factors is the desire or reasonable preference of a child. That is why, upon application to the court, the Texas Family Code, Sec. 153.009 provides for the court to speak directly with a child to discuss their living arrangements. After age 12, the child has a right to speak with the judge if the judge allows it. Under age 12, the court has the right to meet with the child if the judge so chooses. However, the child has no right to select where they live and the judge is free to do what they regard is in the best interest of the child regardless of what the child desires.

While a child may not decide where to live, he or she does have a say. Parents would be wise to listen and work with an experienced family law attorney to resolve custody issues.

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Robert Reid McInvale
Attorney at Law

Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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