Child Custody Living Arrangements

Children Choosing Where To Live Under Texas Law

When (or at what age) do kids get to decide if they want to live with mom or dad?

Many parents want to know when their children get to decide where they want to live. Some people have heard that a child gets to decide where they want to live at age 14 while others say age 16 or even 17.

Under Texas law, there’s an age at which children get to decide. When your daughter who has been living with the mother decides she wants to go live with you instead, the parenting plan must be changed. This means that you must get the court’s approval if you want your son or daughter to live with you before you can make it official.

Most parents cooperate with each other. So in these cases, it’s easy to get court approval. You simply file a motion to modify the parenting plan to designate the father as the primary parent instead of the mother. Since both parties are in agreement, getting court approval will be easy and probably done without any questions asked.

What if the parties don’t agree that their daughter should live with the father instead of the mother, even though that’s what she wants?

Then you must decide how serious you are about pursuing this change because you’re likely going to need to file a petition for modification of the parenting plan in order to allow your daughter to move in with you. The other side can make it very difficult for you.

They can drag out the process by making it take six months to a year before you get an answer from a judge while you spend a ton of money in the process. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many parents who care more about sticking it to their ex than they do about what’s best for their own child.

Most of the time, these parents are too wound up in their own hatred of the other parent to see that they are damaging their own child just as much as they are getting the satisfaction of making their former spouse pay.

Under Texas law, a child’s wishes is but one factor in the court’s criteria in deciding where the child will live. Modifying a parenting plan by force, even when the child wants it, is not easy. You will first need to obtain the court’s blessing to even bring the suit to modify the parenting plan in the first place.

In other words, you must pass a litmus test known as “adequate cause” before the court will even consider whether or not it is going to allow your child to move in with you. For a few judges, when a child says they want to change parents, that’s enough to grant adequate cause, but it’s not enough for all judges. Each judge is different and each judge gives different weight to how important a child’s wishes are in their consideration.

Once you obtain the permission to proceed by passing adequate cause, you’ll likely want to hire a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to make a recommendation to the court on where your child should live. Be careful about who you hire. It’s an unspoken reality that some GALs favor moms and some GALs favor dads. You want to make sure you have the right GAL on your side.

If the other parent doesn’t agree in mediation, a trial is your final answer. If you are considering modifying the parenting plan because your son or daughter wants to move in with you, first consider whether the other spouse will even agree. If they will not, then you will want to speak to an attorney via email or call us at 214-915-2205 to explore your legal options.