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How to Get Sole Custody

Are you a parent of young children who is divorced or otherwise separated? You are far from alone. According to data from the Pew Research Center, more than half of U.S. children will have divorced or separated parents at some point before they turn 18. Parents who are no longer together will be required to work out a custody arrangement.

You may be wondering: Can I get sole custody of my child? In Texas, the answer is “yes,”—but it is somewhat disfavored, and the state will assume that joint custody is appropriate unless good cause can be shown otherwise. Here, our Houston child custody attorney explains the key things to understand about getting sole custody in Texas.

Texas Technically Does Not Use Term Custody: Managing Conservatorship

As a starting point, it is useful to understand that the term “custody” is technically not used in official legal proceedings in Texas. Instead, the state of Texas uses the term "managing conservatorship" to refer to the legal authority and responsibilities of a parent or other individual with regard to a child. Though, it is important to know that the concept is largely the same as child custody. There are two types of managing conservatorships in Texas:

  • Joint Managing Conservatorship: A joint managing conservatorship is effectively shared custody. It refers to a situation in which both parents have rights and responsibilities in making important decisions about the child's welfare, including decisions about education, healthcare, and religion.
  • Sole Managing Conservatorship: A sole managing conservatorship is effectively sole custody. A parent who has a sole managing conservatorship over a child has the exclusive right to make important decisions on behalf of the child.
The Presumption: Parents Should Be Granted a Joint Managing Conservatorship

In Texas, it is generally assumed that parents should be granted joint managing conservatorship of their minor children. In other words, there is a presumption that joint custody is appropriate in our state. The reason for this is that it is state policy that it is inherently better for a child to have a positive, ongoing relationship with both of his or her parents. Along the same lines, it is also state policy that parents should have a right to make decisions for their children.

However, this presumption is not absolute. The court may deviate from the default of joint managing conservatorship if there are circumstances that make it inappropriate or not in the best interests of the child. As an example, if one parent has a history of abuse or neglect, a Texas court may deem it best for the child's health, safety, and long-term well-being for one parent to be granted sole custody (a sole managing conservatorship).

An Overview of the Best Interests of the Child Standard;

In Texas, all custody/visitation issues are resolved under the state’s “best interests of the child” legal standard. The desires of the parent—including a parent who wants a sole managing conservatorship—are secondary. What matters is what is best for the kids. Under Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002, “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” In applying the best interests of the child in Texas, a court can consider a wide range of factors, including:

The desires of the child (if old enough and mature enough to give input);

  • The kid’s emotional/physical needs;
  • Any emotional or physical danger the child is in;
  • The demonstrated parental ability of a parent seeking custody rights;
  • The program available to help the parents promote what is best for the child;
  • The plans made by the parents who are seeking custody rights;
  • The environment stable (safe home environment) that each parent can prove; and
  • Any act/omissions that suggest an improper parent-child relationship.

Ultimately, the best interests of the child standard are complex. Courts in Texas have wide latitude to come to a determination to determine what is best for a child’s health, safety, and emotional development. As noted previously, public policy in Texas presumes that it is inherently best for a child if both of their parents are actively (and positively) involved in their life. Still, there is no question that a sole managing conservatorship (sole custody) is the best arrangement for some children in Southeast Texas.

How to Petition for Sole Child Custody in Texas

Getting sole custody in Texas can be complicated—but it is certainly not impossible. If you are seeking to be the sole managing conservator of your child in Houston, there are a few key things that you can take to protect your parental rights and establish this type of arrangement. Here are three steps to take to put yourself in the best position to obtain sole custody in Texas:

  • Prepare a Petition to Be a Sole Managing Conservator: You will need to file a petition with the court requesting that you be appointed as the sole managing conservator of your child. Along with a wide range of other things, a petition should include your name and contact information, as well as the name and contact information of the other parent.
  • Get Professional Help From a Custody Attorney: Custody cases are complicated. You do not have to take on the system alone if you are seeking sole managing conservatorship. Consult with an experienced Houston, TX custody attorney as soon as possible.
  • Be Ready to Prove Sole Custody is in the Best Interests of the Child: Ultimately, you will only be able to obtain sole custody in Texas if you can prove that the award of sole managing conservatorship is truly in the best interests of the child. Be ready to show that you can provide the very best environment.
Contact Our Houston, TX, Child Custody Attorney Today

At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Texas child custody lawyer is an experienced and reliable advocate for parents. If you have any questions about filing for sole custody, we are more than ready to help you establish and protect your rights. Get in touch with us at (713) 401-3998 or send us a message online to request a strictly private initial consultation. We provide child custody representation in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Montgomery County, and throughout the wider region in Southeast Texas.

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