At the age of 18. In Texas custody cases, a child does not make this decision.
However, the child’s preference may be persuasive on a judge’s decision, depending on the circumstances and age of the child. Typically, the child’s preference for living with one parent will be given greater weight by the judge when a child is older, especially in late teenage years.
When there is custody litigation pending, a party may request the appointment of an Amicus Attorney. A judge also has authority to appoint Amicus Attorneys, without a request from any party, in highly contested custody cases. An Amicus Attorney represents the best interest of the child and, although the Amicus Attorney is not bound by the child’s expressed objectives of representation, the child’s preference may be relayed to the court. The Amicus Attorney, with the consent of the child, has the duty to ensure that the child’s expressed objectives of representation are made to the court.
In a custody proceeding, a party may also file a Motion to Confer with the Judge requesting that the judge interview the child. When a child is 12 years of age or older, the judge is obligated to interview the child. When the child is under the age of 12, the judge may interview the child, but it’s at the judge’s discretion whether or not to interview the child. There are no requirements about the format of the interview, nor who may be in the judge’s chambers during the interview with the child. Each court handles interviews with children differently and generally, judges prefer to avoid interviews with children in custody cases, when possible.
The child does not decide with whom they primarily reside, but a child may influence a custody case outcome by clearly stating his or her preference, either through communicating with the Amicus Attorney or in an interview with the judge.