The Queenan Law Firm
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Dallas Child Custody Attorney
After a divorce, determining which parent or parents have custody over a child is one of the most contentious processes that a parent can go through. Child custody arrangements are often heavily based on facts and based on specific information. Custody proceedings can be some of the most contentious and heavily litigated cases in the state.
At Queenan Law, we work to ensure that a parent's rights to their child and the child’s best interest are being met and maintained. We know that having access to your child is important to you as a parent, therefore we will work diligently to meet and resolve your legal concerns in any custody matter. To set up a free legal consultation about your child custody law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (817) 719-8082.
What is Joint Custody?
The state of Texas has a presumption that parents will share rights and duties for the care of their children. Joint legal custody means that the child still primarily resides with one parent and the other parent enjoys visitation; however, the parents share decision-making in raising the child. Texas often calls these arrangements Joint Managing Conservatorships in which both parents share to a degree in the rights, duties, and obligations of a child’s upbringing. However, even when the court determines that a Joint Managing Conservatorship JMC is in the best interest of the child the court must still designate one parent to be the primary joint managing conservator, whereas the other parent will be deemed the possessory conservator. In this situation, most major decisions regarding a child’s upbringing are made by both the primary joint managing conservator and the possessory conservator
What is Sole Custody?
As noted above, the Texas Courts have a strong preference for a joint custody arrangement, however, there are times when the Court will determine that it is in the best interests of the child for only one parent to have custody of the child. In these cases, the court will name one parent as the Sole Managing Conservator. Generally, the court will uphold its preference towards a joint managing conservatorship unless there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse. Examples of some of the reasons that a court might order one of the parents to be the sole managing conservator of a child include the following situations or circumstances:
- There is a history or pattern of family violence, neglect or abuse by the other parent that might endanger a child;
- The other parent is married to someone who has abused or neglected the child (their stepchild);
- The other parent is married to someone who is a registered sex offender;
- There is a history of drugs, alcohol, or other criminal activity by the other parent that might endanger a child (including a history of DWIs or DUIs);
- There is a history of mental illness of one parent that is not well controlled by medical treatment;
- The other parent has been absent from the child’s life, due to the actions of the absent parent (and not because one parent has purposefully hidden withheld the child from the other parent);
- There is a history of extreme conflict between the parents over educational, medical or religious values;
- A parent doesn’t want to be appointed a joint managing conservator
If a parent is granted sole custody of the child they will have the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s care and upbringing. However, this does not always imply that the other parent will be entirely denied access to the child. The court may order supervised visitation, may order the parents to undergo drug testing, or issue any other order to protect the child.
This situation is relatively rare in Texas because of the strong presumption for both parents to have rights to their child. However, if a parent is granted a sole managing conservatorship then that parent will have superior rights to raise the child or children. A parent who has been granted a sole managing conservatorship will have the right to establish where the child lives, they will have the right to represent the child in any legal action or proceeding, will have the right to consent to marriage, the right to make religious decisions, and the right to make educational decisions.
Can a Non-Parent or Grandparent Ask for Conservatorship?
There are certain situations in which a person who is not one of the legal parents may apply for and be granted a conservatorship. In limited circumstances, a person other than the parent can be granted conservatorship.
- Nonparent — A person, other than a foster parent, who has maintained actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months will be considered to have standing to ask for custody if the six-month time period has not ended more than ninety (90) days prior to filing the suit.
- Foster Parent — A foster parent can file for custody if the child has been in that person’s home for at least twelve (12) months, ending not more than ninety (90) days preceding the date the suit is filed.
- Grandparent — A grandparent may file for custody if there is satisfactory proof to the court that the child’s present living environment presents a serious question concerning the child’s physical health or welfare; or both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator either filed the petition or has consented to it. Grandparents can also apply for some limited visitation if their child has been incarcerated for at least ninety (90) days.
Regardless of who is applying for custody over a child, the court will always be concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. In fact, all decisions pertaining to the child should be made with this interest in mind.
Contact Our Family Law Lawyers in Dallas, Arlington and Houston
To set up a free legal consultation about your child custody law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (817) 719-8082. With more than 20 years of legal experience representing mothers and fathers throughout the Dallas area, our attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.