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Originally Posted On: All About Child Custody in Texas | Scott M. Brown & Associates (sbrownlawyer.com)
According to statistics, roughly a quarter of children in the US are living with one parent.
To protect the best interests of children whose parents are separating, courts in the US have stringent processes for determining custody arrangements.
Texas sees relatively high rates of divorce compared to other states, and its courts have their own laws and priorities for determining custody.
Child custody in texas is not drastically different than in other areas of the US. However, if you are approaching custody proceedings, it’s best to get familiar with how it works in Texas specifically. Otherwise, you might lower your chances of a satisfactory custody outcome.
If you need to get informed about Texas law around child custody, keep reading.
How Is Child Custody Different in Texas?
If you’re involved in a custody case in the Lone Star State, the first thing to get to grips with is how child custody in Texas works.
One of the defining criteria of Texas courts when it comes to determining custody arrangements is the aim to give both parents shared custody where possible. Their guiding principle is to ensure children from divorced marriages maintain meaningful relationships with both parents.
Sometimes, the court will require parents to attend mandatory parenting classes before granting a divorce or custody.
The other guiding principle in Texas law around child custody is the interests of the child. That is their primary concern.
If for certain reasons, equal custody would be detrimental to a child, then Texas courts will look into granting sole custody to one parent.
Another difference in Texas law is that what most people understand as “custody” Texas law calls “conservatorship.”
Different Types of Conservatorship in Texas Law
Texas law further breaks down conservatorship into managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship. Managing conservatorship gives parents the right to make decisions about what the child does and does not do, where they go to school, what church they attend, etc.
Possessory conservatorship refers to where the child lives, visitation, and access.
As mentioned above, Texas law always strives to give both parents managing conservatorship. They are then referred to as joint conservators, and both can make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
Although Texas courts try to give both divorced parents the right to be involved and make decisions for their children—things can get a little more complicated when it comes to which parents children live with.
Texas courts consider several factors when determining where it is best for the child to live. These include things like:
- The home environment
- Proximity to their school and activities
- Their level of involvement in local activities
- Commuting times
Once the court decides which parent the child will reside with, the other parent will be given visitation and access rights.
If one parent is designated sole managing conservator and has control over all decisions related to the child—including where they reside—the other parent will be a possessory conservator. Under this, they are still allowed visitation and access.
The sex of the parents is not a deciding factor in custody arrangements.
Modifying Your Custody Order in Texas
Depending on your unique circumstances, you may want to revise your custody or conservatorship arrangement. If you wish to modify a conservatorship arrangement, you will need to do so at the court that made the initial custody determination.
What Do Texas Courts Consider When Determining the Primary Conservator?
The primary conservator is the parent who gets to decide where the child lives during the custody proceedings. There are several factors Texas family law takes into account when determining this.
- Who bathed, fed, and dressed the child
- Who got them ready for school
- Who transported to school and other activities
- Who arranged and took them to medical appointments
- Who helped with homework and interacted with school bodies and teachers
- Who participated in extracurricular activities
In summary, the court will determine who was the primary caregiver. It will then designate that parent as the primary conservator as this will be less disruptive for the child.
Can Children Decide Who They Want to Live With?
There is a common misconception that once a child reaches the age of 12 in Texas, they can legally decide which parent they wish to live with.
This is not quite true.
Children over the age of 12 are allowed to appear before the court and express a desire to stay with one parent or another. The court will then take this into account.
However, this will only be one of the multiple factors they consider. If the parent who the child wishes to live with will not provide the most optimum environment for them, the court will not place them there.
What Rights Do You Have in Sole Custody
There are many instances where parents may hope for sole custody. Here are some of the rights you will obtain if you’re granted sole custody in Texas:
- The right to decide whether the child lives
- The right to decide on medical procedures
- The right to receive and disburse maintenance payments
- The right to make decisions about your child’s education
Parents who have sole custody conservatorship have the right to make most of the decisions surrounding the child. However, the other parent still retains a list of rights.
What Rights Does the Other Parent Have?
Although parents not holding sole custody don’t have as many rights, they are still entitled to:
- Receive information from the other parent on the wellbeing, health, and education of the child
- Attend school events
- Speak with teachers and medical staff
- Appear in records as someone to call if there is an emergency
- Consent to medical treatments where the child is in immediate danger
- Access medial and student records
The parent who is not holding sole custody also has the right to manage areas of the child’s estate in certain circumstances.
Are You Looking for Expert Legal Help With Child Custody in Texas?
Custody proceedings can be complicated, scary, and taxing. Although it helps to know the basics of how child custody in Texas works, it’s never a good idea to approach a custody case alone.
Texas law is formulated to protect the children in custody cases at all times. However, depending on how the facts are presented, it is not always successful.
Without a child custody lawyer on your side, you may compromise your child’s future.
If you need a child custody attorney, please reach out, and we will schedule a meeting to go over the details of your case and formulate a unique game plan that has you and your child’s interests at heart.