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Overview of Child Custody Laws in Texas

Child custody

As is the case in every other US state, Texas family laws provide parents with rights and responsibilities with respect to minor children regardless of whether they maintain an intact relationship. Therefore, issues regarding child custody will come up in divorce proceedings and actions to establish paternity of a minor child. The Texas Family Code uses the term “conservatorship” to refer to the child custody concepts that might be familiar to you. In short, a conservator has the authority to make decisions in the important areas involved with raising a child.

Of course, the details of Texas child custody laws are much more complicated than this brief summary. There are numerous factors that affect conservatorships, including a statute that covers the child’s best interests. Plus, parents have multiple options for resolving disputes. Considering the challenges, it is wise to retain a skilled Texas child custody attorney for assistance. You might also benefit from reviewing some of the basic legal concepts.

Parental Rights and Different Types of Custody

Depending on the circumstances, sole or joint managing conservatorship may be appropriate. There is a presumption for joint conservatorship so the child enjoys a relationship with both, but a judge may award sole conservatorship in some cases. A managing conservator:

Has the power to make decisions in the areas of education, medical care, extracurricular activities, entertainment, travel, and others;
Can consent to emergency medical care;
Has the right to request and access information about the child’s health, well-being, and education – from the child’s other parent or health care providers; and,
Is authorized to discuss educational, developmental, and social issues with officials at the child’s school.

When joint managing conservators are appointed by the court, they may have equal decision-making authority in these areas. However, in some cases, it may be appropriate for only one parent to exercise this power.

Child’s Best Interests Factors

In determining child custody, Texas law requires a judge to consider certain criteria known as the child’s interests standard. Unlike other states where the factors are listed by statute, the law in Texas comes from the Supreme Court case of Holley v. Adams. The justices itemized several factors to guide courts on the child’s best interests, including:

The current and future physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child;
Each parent’s capabilities and plans for raising the child;
The stability of the home environment with each parent;
Any acts or omissions indicating lack of a parent-child relationship;
The child’s wishes, when age appropriate; and,
Many others.

How Custody Affects Other Legal Matters for Minor Children

Decisions regarding conservatorship will impact the child and parents in other ways as well. Texas uses the term possession and access to refer to what many people know as visitation or parenting time. Any order related to child custody will include details on the living arrangements and, even with joint managing conservatorship, the child will likely reside primarily with one parent. The other will have visitation rights, and Texas has implemented a Standard Possession Order for this purpose. The noncustodial typically has every other weekend and weeknights, and there are provisions for holidays, birthdays, and school breaks.

Custody also impacts child support, so the nonprimary parent will typically be paying. There are numerous factors listed in the Texas Child Support Guidelines, including the number of children to support. The laws focus on the obligor parent’s income, taking a percentage to determine the amount.

Options for Resolving Conservatorships

It is important to remember that going to court for a contested hearing on child custody is not the only legal option for parents. In fact, Texas family laws encourage you to come to an agreement on custody and visitation. A judge will likely approve an arrangement that complies with the child’s best interests.

If disputes remain, it may still be possible to avoid litigation by participating in mediation. During the proceeding, parents are guided by a trained mediator who facilitates productive conversations about custody matters. Many times, the parties can reach an agreement through mediation.

A Texas Child Custody Lawyer Can Provide Personalized Advice

This overview is helpful for understanding how conservatorships work in Texas, especially the impact of the child’s best interests standard. You have important parental rights to protect whether you are dealing with custody issues in a divorce or paternity case, so please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC for details. You can call 713-225-6200 or visit our website to set up a consultation. After reviewing your situation, a Texas child custody attorney can explain the legal process.