Can a Child Age Twelve Decide Which Parent to Live With?

I have been asked this question more times than I can count during my career.  More often, it is stated to me as fact, as in “well my child is over twelve, so she gets to decide who she wants to live with.” This belief is based on a misinterpretation of a very real Texas Family Code statute concerning the wishes of a child twelve or older.

Section 153.009

Here is what Texas Family Code Section 153.009 says Continue reading

Parental Alienation Syndrome – Alec Baldwin’s New Book

Actor Alec Baldwin is currently promoting a book entitled “A Promise to Ourselves” in which he bashes the family court system in general and his ex-wife Kim Basinger specifically.  See the AP article here.  Baldwin contends that he is a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, a controversial psychological theory concerning how one parent can poison a child against the other parent.

I’m not familiar enough with his case to have an opinion on whether he is truly a victim of his ex-wife.  However, I have heard the voicemail he left for his teenage daughter in which he called her a “rude thoughtless little pig.”  That voicemail was leaked to the press which Baldwin deemed inappropriate.  Regardless of whether it should have been publicly released, or the circumstances that led to his anger, Baldwin should be ashamed of himself for speaking to his own child in such a demeaning, belittling manner.  There simply is no excuse.

Relocation Cases

Here is an interesting post about relocation cases in the state of Nevada. The author is a college professor in Nevada who blogs about his divorce experience. He describes the relocation statute and how, in his opinion, it is usually applied in a way that allows the custodial parent to move the child away from the non-custodial parent.

The Nevada statute gives very specific guidance to the court making such a decision but some of the factors seem rather weak to me. For example, the statute lists factors the court should consider in making its decision, including “whether housing and environmental living conditions will be improved,” and “whether the custodial parent’s employment and income will improve.”

The Texas Family Code has a statute that requires that all orders naming the parties as joint managing conservators (typically, divorce and paternity cases) to give the exclusive right to establish residence to one parent (this is generally what determines which parent is “primary”). That statute further requires that the order state whether the residency is restricted to a specific geographical area (and if so what area) or that there is no geographical restriction. The vast majority of Texas cases include a geographical restriction. A typical example would be a restriction to Harris County, Texas and the contiguous (surrounding) counties.

Unlike Nevada, the Texas Family Code does not provide any specific guidance as to how the courts are to determine relocation cases. So when a custodial parent with a residency restriction wants to move that parent would file a petition to modify, essentially asking the court to remove the restriction. Ultimately, the standard applied by the court in deciding the case would be whether the move was in the child’s best interest.

Although a lot of factors would be considered, in most cases the biggest factor is how involved the non-custodial parent was in the child’s life. If that parent was very involved with child, the custodial parent probably would have a difficult case to win. If the non-custodial parent was uninvolved, the custodial parent would have a much stronger case.