Child custody can be a complex issue. In Texas, a child custody order is known as a conservatorship. When both of a child’s parents have legal rights to the child, both generally have the right to parenting time with him or her. When the court determines a shared conservatorship to not be in the child’s best interest, the non-custodial parent may have visitation rights, a court-ordered visitation schedule with the child that ensures that he or she continues to have a consistent relationship with the parent.
Often, a conservatorship is created when a couple with one or more minor children divorces. A child’s parents do not have to have been married to establish one, though – separated parents, regardless of whether they were ever married, can establish conservatorships to ensure that their children continue to have relationships with both parents.
In Texas, just like every other state, child conservatorships are primarily based on what the court determines to be in the child’s best interest. The child’s best interest is an umbrella term that covers all aspects of the child’s needs, such as his or her emotional, social, medical, and academic needs and each parent’s fitness to provide for those needs on a regular basis.
Other factors the court considers include:
- Each parent’s previous cooperation with the court and the other parent regarding child-related orders;
- The child’s previous child custody arrangement. Often, courts aim to maintain the continuity of an existing custody arrangement and living situation;
- Whether either parent’s household has a history of abuse;
- The stability of each parent’s living situation and income; and
- The child’s wishes. This is not a deciding factor in itself, but if the child expresses the desire for a specific custody arrangement, the court may consider this desire.
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Sometimes, a child custody arrangement created when a couple divorces is no longer appropriate for their children in the years that follow the divorce. When this is the case, a parent may file a motion in court to have the order amended.
The requested change must be in the child’s best interest. Additionally, one of the following must apply in order for a custody order to be changed:
- The child is at least 12 years old and filed a written document with the court stating which adult he or she wants to have the right to decide where he or she lives;
- There have been substantial lifestyle changes for the child or one of the parents that have rendered the existing custody order insufficient or inappropriate; or
- The child’s conservator has voluntarily given up his or her role as a primary caregiver for six months or longer.
A child conservatorship can be a fairly significant part of a divorce settlement. To ensure that your rights are protected and your interests are promoted in the creation, enforcement, and modification of your conservatorship, work with an experienced family lawyer. Contact our team at Scott M. Brown & Associates today to schedule your initial legal consultation with a member of our team.