Child Custody in Texas: 10 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The structure of the American family has changed over the last several decades. The Pew Research Center reports that the majority of kids have parents who are divorced, separated, or re-married. Of course, that does not make a child custody and visitation case any easier for a parent who is going through one. It is crucial that you understand your rights and duties under Texas law.
At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our law firm provides strong, results-driven legal advocacy to clients. We want to make sure that parents and other parties have the knowledge and information that they need to protect their interests. Here, our Houston child custody attorney answers 10 of the most frequently asked questions about child custody in Texas.
Technically, Texas does not use the term “child custody” in official legal proceedings. Instead, you will come across the term ‘conservatorship.’ The concept is similar: In Texas, a conservatorship refers to parental rights and parental responsibilities. There are two basic types of conservatorship in Texas — a sole managing conservatorship, which is effectively sole custody, and a joint managing conservatorship, which is effectively shared custody. Although sole child custody can certainly be granted in Texas, state law presumes that some form of joint custody is better for children.
Texas is a “best interests of the child” jurisdiction. Under Texas law (Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002), all disputes of custody and visitation are resolved by determining what arrangement would be best for a child’s health, safety, and emotional well-being. The desires of the parent are a secondary consideration. Parents locked in a child custody dispute should be prepared to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to provide the best environment for their child.
In assessing what type of custody arrangement would be in the best interests of the child, a Texas court can consider a wide range of different factors. Along with other factors, the best interests of the child factors include:
- Each parent’s demonstrated capacity to provide a stable home environment;
- The relationship each parent developed with the child;
- The child’s unique emotional and physical needs;
- The willingness of the parents to cooperate with each other;
- Any history of abuse, neglect, or other parental misconduct; and
- Any other factor deemed relevant to determining what is best for the child.
Yes—at least as long as a father has established legal paternity. Without legal paternity, a man has no access to parental rights or parental responsibilities. In Texas, the child custody and visitation laws are gender-neutral. In effect, this means that fathers and mothers have an equal right to claim custody and visitation.
Texas courts strongly favor the use of parenting plans. Broadly defined, a parent plan is simply the structure under which divorced/separated parents handle their rights and responsibilities. A parent plan should be comprehensive. Among other issues, a parenting plan in Texas should address:
- Managing conservator and possessory conservator;
- The division of parental decision-making authority;
- A detailed child time-sharing schedule;
- Instructions regarding communication between the parents; and
- Any unique factors relevant to the custody/visitation case.
Yes. In fact, Texas courts encourage parents to come to their own custody and visitation arrangements whenever possible. When parents are able to come to an amicable custody agreement (and a parenting plan) on their own, courts in Texas give them considerable discretion. An experienced Houston, TX custody lawyer can help you negotiate a custody arrangement.
It depends on the specific circumstance of your case. Though, when parents are getting divorced or otherwise separating, child support may be awarded to the parent with primary physical possession of the child. A custody arrangement will impact child support obligations. If you have any specific questions, an experienced Houston child support attorney can help.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other non-parental relatives have limited rights in child custody cases. A Texas court will only grant official rights to grandparents if at least one parent has had their rights terminated and doing so is in the best interests of the child.
Yes. That being said, a court will not approve a custody modification simply because you are unsatisfied with the current situation. Under Texas law (Tex. Fam. Code § 156.101, a parent seeking custody modification must establish a material and substantial change in circumstances. In general, it is best to try to work with your co-parent to work out an agreement regarding a modification. Though, you may be entitled to get a custody modification over the objections of the other parent if there has been a significant change in circumstances and your modification is in the best interest of the child.
Child custody cases are complicated. Whether you are trying to negotiate an amicable parenting plan during a divorce or you are locked in a difficult child custody battle, an experienced Houston, TX family lawyer can help. It is generally best to look for a Texas child custody lawyer who has relevant experience and a history of client reviews. If you have any questions about custody or visitation, our lead attorney Rahlita D. Thornton can help you determine the best course of action.
At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Houston family lawyer has extensive experience representing parents in complex child custody and visitation cases. Give us a call at (713) 401-3998 or send us a direct message for a strictly confidential consultation. With law offices in Houston and Sugar Land, we are well-positioned to provide child custody representation throughout Southeast Texas, including in The Woodlands, Pearland, Spring, Katy, Humble, Baytown, and Pasadena.