Texas’ child custody laws are often confusing. Texas uses different language than most states or the common terms, which may make it difficult for parents to understand what rights they have and whether they have the level of custody of their children that they want. If you share children with another person or are going through a divorce or divorce while pregnant in Texas, talking to a child custody lawyer can help you understand how Texas courts determine custody, and help you understand the types of custody the court assigns. This guide, by the Queenan Law Firm, P.C., has some general information on how child custody works in Texas. If you need help with your case, call our Dallas child custody lawyers today for a free consultation on your case.
Child Custody in Texas
In order to discuss how child custody is determined, it’s important to talk about what exactly child custody is. First, there are typically two types of custody: physical custody, where you have your child living with you, and legal custody, where you have the power to make decisions in your kids’ lives. Texas does away with the confusion, referring to these as “possession and access” for the ability to have your kids live with you and visit them, and a “conservatorship” for the legal custody rights.
There are two main types of conservatorships, one for sole custody and one for joint custody. Under Texas law, if you are the only parent with the legal ability to make decisions in your child’s life, you have a Sole Managing Conservatorship. If both parents share the right to make decisions, they have a Joint Managing Conservatorship.
In Texas, every custody case ends with a parenting plan that lays out what each parent can do, where the child lives, and how much time the child spends with each parent. Courts prefer to see both parents involved in their child’s life, and often award joint managing conservatorships and give both parents possession and access. The only time that a court should cut a parent off from their child is in cases where the parent is a danger in the child’s life.
How Courts Decide Child Custody
Across the country, courts have the power to make child custody decisions. While parents are usually left to raise their kids how they see fit, courts are able to step in to make decisions when the parents live in separate households or disagree over what to do with their kids. This means Texas judges have the power to grant or remove child custody, or to limit the amount of time a parent has access to their child.
The ultimate factor courts always consider with child custody decisions is the child’s best interests. This means that the child always comes first, and courts look to promote their safety and growth in a loving, caring home as their ultimate goal. In divorces based on abuse, drug use, crime, or other serious issues, courts may see one parent as a danger or bad influence in the child’s life. Ultimately, it may be in the child’s best interests for the court to cut ties with that parent. The court should not consider divorce as a factor, and unmarried parents can have an equal shot at custody.
Unless there is a good reason to cut a parent off, courts typically award joint custody through a joint managing conservatorship. This gives both parents the legal right to make decisions in their children’s lives and control how they are raised. In this type of arrangement, both parents have equal rights to make decisions, and must often work together to come to agreements over things like religion, education, and healthcare.
When custody is split with another parent, the child may spend time living with both parents. Courts decisions on possession and access are not always as evenly divided as a conservatorship. This means one parent may end up with more parenting time than the other, especially if their home is the child’s primary residence. Some parents may get the right to have their children live with them on weekends, during the summers, and on holidays, but may otherwise have less access than the other parent. Other parents may be given only the right to visit or occasionally spend time with their kids. Typically, the parent who spends less time with possession and access will also pay child support to the other parent.
Courts take many factors into account when deciding how much time and access to award each parent. Things often come down to which parent has the time to be a parent, will be most likely able to care for the child, and will prevent exposure to things like drugs, alcoholism, or abuse. Talk to an attorney about your specific case for help understanding what factors a court will see as important when making custody decisions.
Child Custody Lawyer in Dallas, TX
The Dallas family lawyers and Arlington divorce lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm may be able to help if you’re going through a custody battle. Our attorneys have worked with hundreds of parents to help them protect their custody rights and keep the power to make decisions for their children. For a free consultation on your Dallas child custody case, contact The Queenan Law Firm today at (817) 476-1797.