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The Battle for Parenthood: Navigating the Complexities of Child Custody Battles

Are you a divorced or separated parent of young children or teenagers in Texas? It is crucial that you know how to protect your parental rights. The battle for parenthood can be challenging, especially in high-conflict or otherwise complex cases. At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, we help parents protect themselves and do right by their children. Here, our Houston child custody attorney explains the key things to know about navigating the legal complexities of a child custody battle in Texas.

Know the Law: Texas is a ‘Best Interests of the Child’ Jurisdiction

As a starting point, it is crucial to emphasize that the best interests of kids come first in Texas. Under state Law (Texas Family Code Sec. 153.001), any court decision about a child’s custody will consider the circumstances and conditions that will most contribute to the child’s welfare, health, and overall development. The statute instructs family law courts to consider a wide range of different factors in custody cases, including the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody, any potential danger to the child, and the child’s preferences if the child is 12 years old or older.

Custody Rights are Divided Into Two Categories in Texas

Texas technically does not use the term “custody” in official family law proceedings. Though, the concept is the same. In Texas, child custody rights are divided into two categories: 1) Conservatorship and 2) Possession. Here is what you need to know:

  • Conservatorship: Conservatorship pertains to the decision-making rights and duties of the parent. This includes decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious instruction.
  • Possession: Possession, on the other hand, refers to the physical custody of the child. Among other things, this includes where the child lives and what type of access the non-custodial parent has to the child.

There are two types of conservatorship: joint managing conservatorship (JMC) and sole managing conservatorship (SMC). In a JMC, both parents share the rights and duties of a parent, even if the child lives primarily with one parent. In an SMC, one parent has the exclusive right to make certain decisions about the child.

Texas Courts Favor Shared Parenting, But a Sole Conservatorship Could Be Granted

The default preference of Texas courts is for shared parenting, where both parents have active roles in their child's life, typically in the form of a joint managing conservatorship. Indeed, Texas law presumes that a positive and ongoing relationship with both parents is inherently in the best interests of the child.

That being said, the court may grant a sole conservatorship in situations where it is deemed to be in the child's best interests. Factors that can lead to this decision include a history of family violence, substance abuse, neglect, or if one parent has been absent from the child’s life.

Four Tips to Help You Navigate a Complex Child Custody Battle in Houston, TX

Every child custody battle is unique. It is imperative that you know how to navigate a complex matter so that you are in the best position to protect your rights and your interests. Understanding Texas law and maintaining the focus on your child's best interests can help you navigate this challenging process. Here are four actionable tips that you can use:

  1. Hire a Skilled Texas Family Lawyer: The first step in preparing for a custody battle is hiring a knowledgeable family lawyer who is well-versed in Texas custody laws. They can help you understand your rights and guide you through the complex legal process. You do not have to figure out everything on your own. An experienced Houston, TX child custody lawyer can protect your rights and help you determine the best option for your family.
  2. Gather Essential Documentation: Compile all relevant documents, including the child’s medical records, school records, and any evidence of the other parent’s inability to care for the child. This paperwork will be essential during court proceedings. Ultimately, the more information that you will have, the better position you will be in to protect your best interests.
  3. Present a Consistent and Loving Environment for Your Child: Texas courts prioritize the child's emotional and physical stability. Ensure that your home provides a supportive and consistent environment. Show that you are actively involved in your child's life, participating in their school activities and taking care of their everyday needs. Remember, a core aspect of prevailing in any high-conflict child custody dispute is showing that you are the parent who can provide the best environment for your kid(s).
  4. Maintain a Positive Attitude and Good Conduct: Keep your emotions in check, particularly in interactions with your child and the other parent. The court might consider your behavior as a reflection of your parenting abilities. As such, it is essential to act respectfully and constructively throughout the process.
Child Custody and Visitation Can Be Modified for Changing Circumstances

While they are legally valid and legally enforceable, it is also important to remember that custody arrangements in Texas are not set in stone. If there is a significant change in circumstances—such as a parent relocating, a change in the child's needs, or a shift in a parent's ability to provide proper care—Texas courts can modify custody and visitation orders. The key determinant is always the child's best interests. If you believe a modification is necessary, it is crucial to present clear evidence demonstrating how the changes will better serve your child's well-being. Consulting with a family lawyer can ensure you understand the process and help guide you toward the best outcome.

Contact Our Houston Child Custody Lawyer Today

At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Houston child custody attorney is a compassionate and experienced advocate for parents. If you have any questions about navigating a complex child custody matter, we can help. Call us now or (713) 401-3998 or connect with us online to arrange your completely confidential case evaluation. From our Houston law office, we provide child custody representation throughout Southeast Texas, including in Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and Pearland.

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