Say What You Want to Say – Teenagers and Custody Modification
Want to know one of my favorite family law sayings?
Don’t ever pick a fight you don’t think you have a good chance of winning.
To explain, you don’t ever want to initiate a suit and end up worse off than you were when you started. This is the conversation I have with all of my family law clients when they are deciding whether to modify their court orders.
Here’s a common situation that often results in me incorporating the above saying into my conversation with clients. The client comes to my family law office, asking to modify an existing custody order because the child is 12 or over and has expressed a desire to live with the client.
The client, being well-versed in family law, thinks it’s “game over” when their child reaches 12 and can simply pick where he or she wishes to reside. This is simply not true. While the Texas Family Code gives children 12 and older the right to be heard by the Judge, the child’s stated preference may, or may not be controlling.
Think of the child preference declaration on a sliding scale: with pronouncements made by a child age 12 given relatively little weight while similar statements by 16 and 17 year-olds being given much more weight. Take a minute and think: what decisions do we really allow a 12 year old to make?
Finally, the family law Judge must find that a change of primary conservatorship is in the best interest of the child. In making this finding, the Court will look at many different factors such as the suitability of each parent’s home, the child’s educational and social needs as well as other opportunities available to the child in either home.
So, slow down on your way to the courthouse and consult with a Tarrant County family law attorney to make sure you understand the risks and rewards for filing for modification of custody. I am Board Certified in Family Law and I’ve been practicing in Tarrant County for 25 years. Call me when you need honest advice about your custody modification.