Everything You Need to Know About Child Custody in Texas

Going to court for child custody is never an easy thing, but being prepared can help ease the process. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help.

Divorce is never easy. And when children are involved, the process is even more complicated and emotional.

In Texas, child custody is based on the best interests of the child. The court usually recommends mediation. But, in some cases, mediation doesn’t resolve all issues surrounding child custody.

In these situations, custody becomes the court’s responsibility. If you’re having issues deciding child custody arrangements, it’s important to understand Texas custody laws and speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible.

Here’s everything you need to know about child custody in Texas.

Understanding Conservatorship

In Texas, the term for custody is “conservatorship.” The child’s custodian is the “conservator.”

The court decides the terms of conservatorship based on what’s in the best interests of the child. There are two types of conservatorships in Texas. These include:

  • Joint managing conservatorship (JMC)
  • Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)

To determine conservatorship, the court looks to who has been the primary caretaker for the child. Some factors the court considers include:

  • Who provides food for the child
  • Who takes the child to school or daycare
  • Who takes the child to doctor’s appointments
  • Who manages school activities or extracurricular activities
  • Who oversees homework and school attendance

The court will consider which parent does these tasks the majority of the time. Unless there’s reason to change these arrangements, this parent is normally awarded primary conservatorship of the child.

Joint Managing Conservators

In Texas, there’s a tendency to name both parents as joint managing conservators. This arrangement allows parents to share some rights and responsibilities for the child.

One parent usually maintains the right to make certain decisions, such as healthcare or education choices. When parents are joint conservators, the judge will assign certain responsibilities to each parent.

In most cases, both parents will maintain equal possession and access to the child. The judge will issue a visitation schedule called a standard possession order (SPO) for the parents to follow.

Sole Managing Conservator

When a judge designates a sole managing conservator, that parent has legal rights to make decisions for the child. These rights may include:

  • The child’s primary residence
  • Healthcare decisions
  • Psychological treatment decisions
  • Education decisions
  • Emergency contact designee

The court may choose an SMC for a variety of reasons. Sometimes one parent doesn’t want joint conservatorship. Other reasons may include:

  • A parent with a history of violent behavior or neglect
  • Parental drug or alcohol abuse
  • A parent who is absent from the child’s life
  • Parental conflict regarding medical care, education, or religion

In Texas, the court places the best interests of the child above all other factors.

Child Visitation in Texas

Child visitation is considered possession of or access to a child. In most situations, the judge will allow both parents to have access to and possession of their child.

If the judge feels a parent poses a physical or emotional threat to the child, he or she may deny visitation rights. Using certain guidelines, the judge will issue a standard possession schedule.

Parents have the right to agree on a visitation schedule. If they cannot agree, the judge will order a schedule for the parents to follow.

Best Interests of the Child

In Texas, the court makes decisions for custody based on the best interests of the child. Joint legal custody is the standard unless one parent can offer proof otherwise.

The court considers many factors, including:

  • The history between the parent and child
  • The state of the relationship between the parent and child
  • The parents’ place of residence
  • The health of each parent
  • The health and safety of the child
  • The finances of each parent
  • History of abuse or neglect

The court tries to ensure continuing contact with both parents as long as it’s in the best interest of the child. Texas courts encourage parents to work together to raise their children.

Parents must adhere to the child custody order. If one parent denies access to the child, the other parent has the right to bring the issue before the court.

Custody for Single Parents

A single mother is the sole custodian for her child. If the father establishes paternity, parents should attempt to negotiate an agreement for custody arrangements.

Parents should consider the specifics of visitation, education, healthcare, and religious considerations. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, legal counsel and court intervention may be necessary.

Parental Conduct

The court will consider the conduct history of both parents and the impact of their behavior on the child. The court will favor a stable parent over one with a history of domestic violence, drug addiction, or a criminal record.

If the court terminates parental rights, that parent is ineligible for custody in Texas. The court can remove a child if there is evidence of child abuse or neglect.

If one or both parents is a convicted felon, he or she may lose parental rights temporarily or permanently.

Third-Party Custody

In some situations, a third party may attempt to gain custody of a child. If a parent is deceased, a close relative can file a custody suit.

If the child has been living with someone other than the biological parents for six months or more, the child’s caretaker may file for custody. Grandparents have legal rights and may file suit if the parents are deceased or unfit.

If both parents have passed away, the court may grant custody to one or both grandparents. In any custody situation, you need an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights and the rights of the child in question.

Child Support

Under a joint managing conservatorship, the primary conservator provides residence for the child for the majority of the week. Typically, the child spends time with the other parent for a designated period during the week.

In most cases, the parent who doesn’t have primary conservatorship pays child support. The amount depends on the parent’s income and the number of children in question.

Parents with similar income levels may be jointly responsible for the care of the child. The court can modify child support payments if it deems the amount unfair for either party.

Child Custody in Texas

If you’re facing a child custody issue or a problem with your current agreement, you need the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.

Child custody cases can be emotional and complex. And it’s important to have an attorney who understands the family court system and will fight aggressively for the outcome you deserve.

We’d love to talk with you and help you find the right path ahead for you and your child. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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