It is highly preferential for parties to try and resolve custody disputes without going to the court. Our Houston child custody lawyers have extensive experience in resolving issues of custody through negotiations or mediation. That said, sometimes parties are simply unable to find a middle ground on these issues.
Every custody determination is examined by a judge on a case-by-case basis. There is no standard procedure for determining the ideal custody arrangement. The court must address four issues: (1) conservatorship; (2) rights and duties; (3) parenting time/visitation; and (4) child support. In addressing these issues, the court focuses on promoting “the best interests of the child.” In any situation, the Houston child custody lawyers at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC are fully prepared to litigate fervently on their client’s behalf.
In Texas, what people think of as custody is called conservatorship. In other words, a child’s guardian is referred to as his/her conservator. There are two types of conservators: (1) managing conservators (i.e., this person is the child’s legal guardian); and (2) possessory conservators (i.e., this person is the child’s physical guardian). Managing conservators are further divided into two categories: (a) sole managing conservator; and (b) joint managing conservator. Under the Texas Family Code, the presumption is that the parents should be named as joint managing conservators. The real battle in the majority of child custody cases is over which parent will be the primary possessory conservator (i.e., who will be the parent with whom the child lives).
Texas law has a strong preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child. Absent situations of parental misconduct, the court favors granting both parents joint managing conservatorship. That said, because joint possessory conservatorship can be difficult in practical terms, the court weighs several factors in determining where the child’s primary residence should be. The court considers: (1) the parenting ability of each parent; (2) the child’s wishes (if he/she is old enough); (3) any current or future emotional or physical damage to the child; (4) the current and future emotional and physical needs of the child; (5) the programs available to assist each parent in promoting the best interests of the child; (6) the plans for the child by each parent; (7) the stability of the proposed home; and (8) relationships with siblings and extended family.
In Texas, the non-custodial parent still retains visitation rights. Visitation is referred to as “possession and access.” The court order provides for the amount of time awarded by the non-custodial parent. The presumption is that the best interests of the child are served when both parents are actively involved in the child’s life.
In addition, the non-custodial parent retains the right to file a petition with the court to modify the order relating to custody and visitation. In determining whether such a petition should be granted the court looks to find what living arrangement would promote the “best interests of the child.” Sometimes a child’s living circumstances have changed such that a modification of the original custody order is in his/her best interests. In situations involving modification of custody orders, the written preferences of a child over 12 are also taken into account.