It might seem logical that if a child isn’t considered a legal adult until they turn 18, they shouldn’t have any say in adult matters, such as which parent will have custody of them if the parents divorce. But that’s not always the case. There are some situations in which Texas courts will at least consider the child’s preferences.

What Does Texas Law Say About Children Expressing Preferences Regarding Child Custody?

Texas law states that children can’t determine which parent they’ll live with until they turn 18. However, once a child turns 12, the court may allow the child to express a preference.

While the child’s preference is not the only deciding factor, the judge may take it into account when making a final custody decision.

Can a Child Determine if They Want to Visit the Noncustodial Parent?

No. Visitation is ordered by the court, and both parents and the child must abide by the ruling. The child has no say in the matter until they turn 18. However, suppose one parent feels that something such as physical or emotional abuse is possibly taking place at the other parent’s home during visitation. In that case, that parent should reach out to an experienced child custody attorney to explore legally changing the visitation order if possible.

What Is Texas Family Code 153.009?

This Texas code says parents are allowed to request the judge to speak with the child regarding custody and visitation. If the child is 12 or older, the judge is then required to speak to them. If they’re under 12, the judge can opt to interview them or not. It’s important to remember that even if the judge agrees to hear the child’s viewpoint and opinions about custody and visitation, they aren’t required to act on it. They will still determine custody and visitation based on the child’s best interests.

How does the Court determine the Child’s Best Interests?

The court will look at a wide variety of factors when determining which form of custody and visitation will be best for the child.

These are just some of the considerations judges use when making their decisions.

  • If there is a danger to the child. If one parent has a history of abuse with the child or even threatening abuse, the court may decide the risk is too high to have the child spend time alone with that parent. There are different types of custody, and at that point, depending on what’s been proven about the accused parent, the judge may opt for either supervised contact or no contact (more details below).
  • The child’s physical and emotional needs. This is a wide-ranging category that can include various attributes. Still, it comes down to whether or not each parent has demonstrated that they’re capable of caring for a child and taking care of them properly over the years, whether that includes keeping up with routine medical checkups, supporting the child’s education and extracurriculars, and helping them maintain other family and friend relationships as needed.
  • The parents’ stability. If one parent has the ability to maintain a home without moving frequently or being unemployed often, that may be in their favor. A stable childhood is the goal whenever feasible.
  • Access to both parents. Texas courts lean toward arrangements where the child will have a good amount of access to both parents, whether due to the parents sharing joint physical custody or one having sole physical custody and the other having regular visitation. If one parent actively discourages the child from seeing the other (and there is no history of abuse from the other parent), that’s a negative in the eyes of the court. They want to see parents cooperating on what’s best for the child.

What Types of Child Custody and Visitation Exist in Texas?

Physical child custody:

  • Sole custody. As the name implies, the child lives with one parent all the time. The court determines whether or not the other parent has visitation rights.
  • Joint custody. Texas courts prefer to award this when possible. This means the child has two homes and spends time between them, or it means the child stays in one home and the parents take turns rotating in and out.
  • Split custody. When there is more than one child in a family, it’s possible that one parent will have sole custody of one, and the other parent will have sole custody of the other.


  • Fixed visitation (also known as reasonable visitation). The parents have a detailed plan about when the child will see the noncustodial parent.
  • Supervised visitation. This is often used in cases of domestic abuse or if there’s a history of addiction or mental health issues. The noncustodial parent can spend time with the child, but only in a supervised setting.
  • No visitation. This is rarely used, but it can be ordered if the court feels the child is in extreme danger from the noncustodial parent.

What Should I Do if I Would Like to Have Custody of My Child?

Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Every child custody case is unique, and when the child is old enough to express an opinion, it can be even more complicated. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable child custody attorneys can help you determine the likely outcomes of your case and how to work toward the most desirable results.