There are some things that you really must know about child custody in Texas, In this guide, we’ll talk you through them.
When you started your family, the future looked bright. But now, as your family goes through the frightening and emotional process of divorce or separation, you’re now staring down the prospect of navigating child custody.
The good news? 90% of parents in the U.S. settle child custody cases without the need for a judge’s ruling. But in order to get there, you need lengthy negotiation to iron out every last detail. That’s where an attorney (and a bit of research) can make all the difference.
Here’s what parents need to know about child custody in Texas so that you can ensure the best outcome for you and your kids.
1. How is Texas Child Custody Different from Other States?
First, it’s important to understand how child custody in Texas is different from other states. The first gap comes from terminology.
In other states, a conservatorship is a way for someone to assume legal custody over an adult. In Texas, what most people think of as custody is called conservatorship. This is outlined in Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code. There are two types of conservator:
- Managing (sole or joint)
In most cases, the law presumes joint managing conservatorship, which means the rights and duties of parenting are equally shared between two parties. However, there are circumstances where the court will not split conservatorship evenly. That’s important because a child’s conservator has the legal right to make decisions about where they live, how they will be educated, medical treatment, and other important decisions. Think of it as legal custody and you’re on the right track.
Possession refers to something slightly different. In other cases, this is known as physical custody, i.e. who the child physically spends time with and the schedule for when a child spends time with a parent. Typically, the two types of custody go hand-in-hand, i.e. where there’s joint managing conservatorship, there’s also usually an even split on possession. However, possession does not guarantee conservatorship or vice versa.
However, keep in mind that even if a parent has not been awarded conservatorship, they may still be awarded possession (in other words, even if their legal right to make decisions is limited, they will still have the right to spend time with the child).
2. What is Sole Conservatorship in Texas? What is Joint Conservatorship?
Sole conservatorship and joint conservatorship are the equivalents of sole and joint custody in other states.
Sole conservatorship is when one parent has sole legal custody of the child. This means they have the exclusive right to make decisions for the child. If one parent is named sole conservator, the other parent will usually be named possessory conservator (or, in the case of a nonparent receiving sole conservatorship, parents may be given possessory conservatorship). The possessory conservator can make decisions, but they do not have the final legal say.
Joint conservatorship is when legal decision-making power is shared between parents. However, this does not mean that the child spends equal time with both parents.
3. What are Your Child Custody Rights in Texas?
Even if you are a possessory conservator and the other parent is sole managing conservator, you still have legal rights to your child (most of the time).
For example, both conservators have the right to:
- Receive any information from any other conservators pertaining to the child
- Confer with the other conservator about decisions
- Access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records for the child
- Consult with school officials regarding the child
- Attend school events
- Consent to medical treatment for the child
Conversely, both conservators have a duty to inform the other conservator of decisions and information regarding the child. In addition, a possessory conservator still receives visitation, unless the court has explicitly decided otherwise.
4. How Does the Court Decide Who Gets Primary Conservatorship?
Most of the time, courts will award equal conservatorship rights unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Typically, in cases where custody is awarded to one parent, it involves issues like a history of abuse, a criminal record, or if one parent has been significantly more involved in the child’s life. Court decisions are typically slanted in favor of the mother, regardless of a history of abuse or neglect.
While it is reasonable for parents to want to cut out the other parent if there is a history of abuse, neglect, or other problematic behavior, a family law attorney will often caution against asking for sole conservatorship or removal of the other parent’s custody right off the bat. Courts do not like the notion of removing one parent’s child custody rights without significant legal evidence over time, so your case for sole conservatorship may stretch out for some time.
5. Under Texas Child Custody Laws, Who Receives Child Support?
Whether or not anyone pays child support and who receives it is decided on a case-by-case basis in the best interest of the child.
Typically, the parent who designates the child’s primary physical residence will receive child support, since the child lives with them most of the time. However, this is not guaranteed. In cases where one parent earns significantly more than the other, the court may require child custody even if the child spends more time with the high-earning parent. This is done to help ensure stability and a relatively equal standard of living.
Fighting to Win Child Custody in Texas
Child custody in Texas is a fraught experience for parents. You’re already going through a difficult time, and now you’re fighting over serious legal questions for your child’s best interests.
This is where our family law team can help. We’re experienced, accomplished trial lawyers who know how to handle complex custody issues in your best interests. We take the time to understand your unique circumstances and help you make the best legal decisions for your case. That way, you can focus on what matters: spending time with your child.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, get in touch today to schedule your consultation.