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What can happen when you ask the Judge to talk to your teenager during a divorce

In a divorce or child custody case in Texas any child under the age of eighteen is covered by the conservatorship, possession, access and visitation sections in a Court’s order.

It is the state’s policy that both parents should have ongoing and continuous contact with their child in order to foster a relationship that is long-lasting. This is especially important in a family law case, where it is not possible for both parents to have exactly equal time with their son or daughter.

The law does not have the same effect on all children, however. An eight-year-old child has different needs and wants than an eighteen-year-old child. It goes without saying then that the nature of a child’s relationship with each of their parents depends greatly on their age.

In fact, children over the age of twelve are given a special privilege under the Texas Family Code to express to a judge personally their opinion on with which parent they should reside primarily.

It is the experience of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC that clients in a divorce or child custody case that have older children also have many questions about whether it is a smart idea to ask the court for a child-judge conference.

The purpose of this blog post is to explore the subject of children over the age of twelve conferring directly with the judge in their parent’s child custody or divorce case.

A Walkthrough of the child’s right to confer with a Judge

As we discussed in the opening section of this blog post, a child in Texas who is over the age of twelve may speak directly to the judge regarding the issue of where he or she wants to live primarily- with mom or with dad.

This can be arranged by one party to the lawsuit filing a motion with the judge to have the child confer with the judge in his or her office. The other party is welcome to file a motion opposing the original motion but the law states that if one party requests the opportunity to have the judge confer with the child the original motion will be granted.

Clients or potential clients will often ask me about whether it is a good idea to have their child confer with the judge is that judges. My response is that while judges do care about your case and are obligated to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, he or she is not a family therapist or counselor.

A judge’s job is to know the law and interpret it as it pertains to your particular legal situation. It is asking a judge to go outside of their comfort zone (and job description) to have a chat with a teenager about who they want to live with.

The content of those conversations are private and not made a part of the record of your case. Many judges will ask very basic questions of the child:

  1. how they’re doing in school
  2. if they feel safe with both parents, and
  3. if they have concerns either with living with mom or dad.

It is unlikely that the judge would ever ask a question about anything that is ongoing in the actual case itself. Many clients speak to me about a particular subject that is bothering them in a case and figure that the judge would certainly ask their child to give their perspective on it. This would go against a central tenant of any judge’s: do not place the child in the middle of any dispute between the parents.

Why a judge won’t play therapist with your child during a conference

The judge will not delve too deeply into the parent-child relationship because it essentially asks the child to take sides and give damaging information about one or both parents. Both parents could essentially use the child as a means by which to communicate their viewpoints to the court.

Another reason why judges don’t get into the nitty-gritty with the child is that if the child is empowered too significantly in regard to the case, it’s possible that the child could take advantage of the position that they have been put in.

What I mean is that once the child realizes what they are being asked to do it’s likely that they could play both sides and have their testimony swayed by favorable treatment from a parent.

An option to utilize instead of a child-judge conference

Instead of asking a judge to speak to your child, it may be a better option to file a request for a social study instead. A social study invites a licensed family therapist into your home to view your family’s interactions and to interview each party and child to the case.

In this way, negative and positive situations can be viewed through the prism of an objective party. If there is a situation that you absolutely believe the judge needs to know about a social study will have that communicated.

In addition, a social study does not directly place the child’s words against one parent. A judge is also much more likely to take the recommendations found within a social study to heart, rather than speaking to a teenager merely because the law requires it.

Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC for a free of charge consultation

The divoce attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC understand the desire to have the voice of your child heard by the judge. While everyone (in most situations) is acting based on what they believe is in the best interests of the child, having your child talk to the judge may not be as beneficial as you believe.

However, no definite statement can be made until you speak to a licensed family law attorney about your situation. Contact our office today to learn more about the services we provide to families across Southeast Texas.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Tomball, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Tomball, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

A divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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