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TX familiy lawyerAs children of divorced or never-married parents get older and gain a greater understanding of their relationship with their parents and the world around them, they often develop strong opinions about which parent they want to be with all or most of the time. When the parents agree with the child’s preferences and with each other on a parenting arrangement, making a new custody order is fairly simple.

But when parents disagree with each other about child visitation, or if a child has preferences with which one or both parents disagree, a Texas family court may have to intervene and decide what arrangement would be in the child’s best interests. If you are interested in pursuing sole custody (or sole conservatorship, as it is legally known), you may want the help of an experienced family lawyer who can help you explore your and your child’s options.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

A child can never independently decide which parent they want to live with until they are 18. This may seem unfair, especially if the child is mature and independent, but that is the law. However, beginning at age 12, children can have a larger say in where they live - although a judge will be the person who ultimately makes a decision about, or approves of, parenting arrangements. Children also cannot decide to refuse visitation with one parent until they are 18 because, like parents, children are legally obligated to follow existing custody orders.

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TX family lawyerChild custody proceedings can be difficult for the children involved. Some will have a strong preference regarding which parent they would like to live with, while others may be reluctant to express a preference. While Texas courts may consider the preferences of children in limited ways, the state does not allow minors to make their own decisions regarding custody. The court will, however, carefully consider the child’s best interests before making any custody determination. A qualified child custody attorney can offer you more specific advice regarding your particular situation, as there are a lot of variables at play.

Why Are Children Not Allowed to Choose?

Children may not be able to make the best decisions for themselves regarding where to live and with whom. Often, a child will select the “fun” parent who is more permissive or the parent who gives them a better allowance. Children may also be easily bribed, and it is not uncommon for parents in divorce cases to do exactly this. Courts want to make sure that the child lives with the parent who it is in their best interest to live with - and this may not be the parent with who the child asks to live.

How Can a Court Consider a Child’s Opinion?

If the child is over the age of 12 years old, one or both parents can submit a request for the child to speak to the judge regarding custody matters, and the request must be granted. If the child is under 12 years old, a parent can still submit a request, but the judge may grant it only at his discretion. Neither parent will be permitted to be present for this conversation, which takes place in the privacy of the judge’s chambers.

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TX family lawyerTexas family courts operate under the presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with and enjoy the guidance of both parents. As such, they are generally reluctant to give one parent exclusive full-time access to the child. However, there are situations in which spending time with one parent would be detrimental to the child’s health, safety, or mental well-being. In these cases, courts will consider granting sole custody, but some evidence may be needed to convince the court that this is truly necessary to protect the child.

If you believe that you need sole custody of your child for their safety, working with an experienced family law attorney may afford you the best opportunity to put forth a strong case.

What Kinds of Evidence Might Convince a Court That Sole Custody is Appropriate?

Even if they are completely true, one parent’s unsupported claims that the other parent is a danger to the child may not be enough to convince a court that granting sole custody is the right thing to do. An attorney can work with you to help you start identifying and collecting the evidence you may need. This evidence could include:

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One of the most contentious and emotionally charged aspects of most divorce cases is thechild custody determination proceedings. Most parents want full custody of their little ones, but because the courts feel that shared parenting is in most children's best interests, they often try to split custody evenly between both parties, or a 50/50 schedule. However, if the judge determines that one parent is more fit than the other, or that it would be in the children's best interest to stay at one parent's house more often, he or she may grant that parent more custody.

If you are in the midst of a child custody battle, there are a few things you can do to help your case, and many things you can do to sabotage it. At Clark Law Group, ourDallas custody attorneys strive to help our clients do everything in their power to obtain the maximum amount of custody possible. This often involves guiding them on what not to do. This post details five of the biggest mistakes parties can make during divorce that may result in a reduction of custody rights.

Partaking in Alienation Practices

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Typically, a psychological evaluation is only ordered when one or both parents makes a claim that the other is unfit to parent. The basis for such a request is usually to show the judge the weighty concerns regarding a parent's mental health and his or her ability to provide an emotionally stable environment for the child. The evaluation would be used to help the judge make an appropriate determination regarding custody. If you believe that your child's other parent is unfit to care for your child, your Dallas child custody lawyer may advise you to obtain a psych assessment. However, if you do choose this route, there are a few considerations you should make first, as the courts take such request seriously. If the judge learns that you only ordered an assessment to make the other parent look bad, it could work in the other parent's favor.

Considerations to Make Before Requesting a Psych Evaluation

Before you request an evaluation of your child's mom or dad, you need to consider the following:

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