We outline the rights of all parties regarding Texas child custody law and the many different avenues couples can take to resolve their cases.
Going through a divorce is never easy. When children are in the mix, it adds an additional element of stress to the situation.
It’s natural for emotions to run high during a divorce. But your child’s well-being must be your primary focus.
Texas child custody laws are complicated. If you plan to fight for custody, it’s important to have an advocate on your side and an understanding of what’s ahead.
Here’s a look at parents’ rights and child custody law in Texas.
In Texas, child custody is called conservatorship. This refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents.
The parents are conservators rather than custodians according to Texas law. When parents can’t reach a decision regarding custody, it’s left to the courts to decide.
Texas courts believe in most cases that joint conservatorship is in the best interests of a child. If there is a history of abuse or neglect, the court may grant one parent sole conservatorship of the child.
Conservators’ rights include:
- The right to participate in a child’s education, medical care, after-school activities, etc.
- The right to make decisions about a child’s health, legal, or educational needs
- The right to be a child’s emergency contact and consent to emergency medical treatment
- The right to access a child’s medical, educational, and psychological records
In Texas, there are two types of conservatorships.
Joint Managing Conservatorship
With joint conservatorship, both parents share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their child. In most cases, one parent is the primary conservator.
The other parent is the non-primary conservator and has visitation rights. In other states, the term for this arrangement is joint custody.
The Texas courts believe children are more likely to thrive when both parents play an active role in their child’s upbringing.
Sole Managing Conservatorship
A parent who has sole managing conservatorship has the legal right to make decisions regarding a child’s life and well-being. When the court finds negative factors involving one parent, the court may choose this form of conservatorship.
Negative factors could include:
- Substance abuse
- Domestic violence
- Extreme conflict between the parents
- Being an absentee parent
Any situation that is detrimental to a child’s wellbeing could be a factor that determines conservatorship.
The court most often grants joint conservatorship in consideration of:
- The ability of the parents to make decisions in their child’s best interest and welfare
- Whether the parents will encourage and accept a loving relationship between the child and the other parent
- How the parents have participated in the child’s upbringing
- The physical distance of the parents’ residences
- The preference of a child who’s over 12 years of age
The Texas courts are serious about making the ruling for conservatorship in the best interests of the child. Parents’ behavior through the conservator process is a determining factor as well.
When parents can’t determine conservatorship on their own, the Texas courts step in to make this determination.
Custody Rights for Unmarried Mothers
In Texas, like many states, unmarried mothers receive more parental rights than unmarried fathers. In some situations, the court can revoke those rights.
Unmarried mothers in Texas are the sole custodians of their children. They can make all decisions for their children without a father’s consent.
Unless a father proves paternity, he has no decision-making or visitation rights to the child. Although unmarried fathers are not usually sole custodians in Texas, they can gain custody rights.
When a father proves paternity, they can ask for custody in family court. Depending on the ruling, they may gain the right to visitation or child support.
Custody Rights for Married Mothers
In Texas, parents share child custody rights until there’s an action for divorce in family court. Until this takes place, a mother is prohibited from making legal decisions for the child without the father’s consent.
In some situations, the court may rule a father unfit. If this occurs, the court may designate the mother as the sole custodian. Texas courts allow a mother to file for temporary custody and child support before a divorce is final.
Custody Rights for Unmarried Fathers
Fathers have parental rights in Texas. To fight for custody, a father must prove paternity. This can occur in two ways.
A mother can sign an acknowledgment of paternity at the hospital or birthing center where the child was born. In some cases, a mother may refuse to establish paternity.
If this happens, the father can petition the family court and take a DNA test to establish paternity. If the test proves paternity, the father has the right to gain visitation and other custody rights.
Custody Rights for Married Fathers
Married fathers in Texas have the same rights as mothers. Married fathers have the right to shared custodianship until the divorce is final.
They have the right to share in decision-making with the mother’s consent. If the court rules the mother is unfit, the court can award the father sole conservatorship.
Texas child custody laws put the best interest of the child first regarding custody. When the parents don’t share joint custody, the court usually grants fathers visitation rights.
Joint Custody Preference
In Texas, the law expresses a preference for joint custody. Absent parental misconduct, the court favors giving parents equal access to the child.
With a shared custody agreement, both parents participate in the child’s upbringing. Parents have equal rights regarding a child’s medical care, education, and other important decisions.
Joint possessory conservatorship or joint custody can be difficult to manage. This is especially true if there’s lingering animosity between the parents. In many cases, the court will grant joint managing conservatorship.
With this arrangement, parents share in decision making, but the child lives with one parent the majority of the time. The court considers the “best interests of the child” standard when making a decision regarding conservatorship.
Texas Child Custody Law
Divorce is a challenge for everyone involved. This is especially true for children.
No matter the circumstances, it’s important to seek the best resolution for your child. We understand that the well-being of your child is your main concern.
Our Texas child custody law attorneys have years of experience fighting passionately for the best possible outcome for our clients. We’d love to talk with you about your situation and how we can help.
Contact us today for a consultation.