The Texas Family Code Can’t Handle Teenagers (but Who Can?)

Greg Housewirth hugging his grumpy daughterAs you can see from the picture to the right, I know a thing or two about being a parent to a teenager.

Fort Worth and Dallas child custody lawyers often hear divorce clients complain that their teenager has gone wild and that ordinary weekend exchanges of possession have become a battlefield. The divorce decree you and your spouse had negotiated years ago had a different meaning when the children were younger and more dependent on you for their physical and emotional support.

As children enter the teenage years, they seek, among other things, more physical and emotional independence from both parents. School, friends and activities take priority over quality time with mom or dad. But what about that divorce decree that says you have your child with you at the designated possession times?

Can a teen really choose a primary parent?

Top divorce lawyers in Fort Worth, TX Greg Housewirth and Holly Schreier are frequently asked whether a teen can really choose his primary parent in a Tarrant County child custody case. Here’s the answer to your divorce questions you need: The Texas Family Code provides that, at age 12, the court is required to interview the child to assess his or her desires as to choice of residence and contact with the non-primary conservator.

But, this is far from the end of the analysis. In most Tarrant County divorce cases, a family court judge will give little weight to a parental preference expressed by a 12 year old.  Absent findings of child abuse or neglect, the court will look to other factors when deciding child custody. To make your best case for primary custody, consult experienced custody attorneys at Schreier & Housewirth Family Law.

Are you in contempt of court?

Texas family law attorneys and judges have long argued over whether it is “contempt of court” if a teenager refuses to comply with a divorce decree providing for specific visitation. Let’s make this clear… the contempt is always directed against the parent, and not the child. So is this to say that if you can’t coax your teenager into the car with the other parent that you are subject to contempt for violation of a Texas divorce decree?

There are Texas family law cases from both Dallas and Fort Worth that offer contradicting conclusions.  At Schreier and Housewirth Family Law, we believe the best answer is to look at the conduct of the surrendering parent in the situation. We ask if the surrendering parent was active or passive in denying the other parent access to the child.  For instance, it is unlikely a Tarrant County Family Court Judge would hold you in contempt for not being able to physically force a child into a car. On the other hand, if you are actively aiding in the resistance, you should fear punishment by the Court.

Common sense answers from Tarrant County child custody lawyers

Ultimately, we at Schreier and Housewirth encourage our Tarrant County family law clients to step back and reflect before asking the court to become involved in the raising of their teenager.  If tensions are running high between you, your ex, and the child, Court will only turn up the heat.

To avoid a Fort Worth custody battle over your teen, try these few suggestions:

  • Try to be flexible with your teenager.  Sometimes less pressure yields better results;
  • Stay in the loop with a quick phone call, or text message;
  • Think about your life revolving around the life of your teenager, rather than expecting a young adult to stop-down and adjust to your schedule;
  • Be there at school, concerts and games – – they’ll know you’re there;
  • Set a “date-night” with your teenager when you both can clear time on your calendar to spend time together;
  • Encourage your teenager to visit his or her other parent – – someday you may need your ex to reciprocate