If you are going through a divorce or you have previously lost custody of your child, you may need an attorney to help you get or keep joint custody of your child. For some, their children are their world. Regardless of what the court or the other parent may think, maintaining custody and preserving your place in your child’s life may be vital to you.
A Texas child custody attorney may be able to help you keep and protect your child custody rights, including joint custody. The Dallas family law attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., work to protect the rights of parents throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and beyond.
Joint Custody in Texas
First, you should understand that Texas law does not call this situation “joint custody.” Rather than using the term “custody,” Texas calls it a “conservatorship.” A conservatorship is either a “sole managing conservatorship” (SMC) or a “joint managing conservatorship” (JMC). An SMC is the equivalent of “sole custody,” and a JMC is the equivalent of “joint custody.” The parent who has a conservatorship is known as a “conservator.”
When you have a conservatorship (custody), you have the right to manage legal, lifestyle, and day-to-day decisions for your child. These decisions include the following:
- What school the child goes to;
- What religion the child practices;
- What sport the child plays;
- How the child gets to doctors’ appointments;
- What the child eats for dinner;
- Whether the child receives medical treatment; and
- Any other parenting decisions.
A parent with an SMC (sole custody) has the full authority to make all of these decisions, on their own. This means that the other parent has no legal right to make parenting decisions, and the sole custodian’s decisions are final.
Both parents with a JMC (joint custody) share the ability to make decisions. These decisions are often made together, but courts may draw lines dictating which decisions are joint, and which decisions are left to each parent. For instance, one parent may be given sole power over educational decisions. In making any decisions like this, the court looks at the child’s best interests.
Getting a Joint Managing Conservatorship in Texas
If you live in the same household as or are married to your child’s other parent, you already have joint custody. Parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenthood in the traditional two-parent household, and the law does not get in the way. If you are divorced or live in a separate household from the child’s other parent, you may already have a joint managing conservatorship (joint custody).
Texas law defaults to a JMC (joint custody) plan, in most cases. The law presumes that a child needs both parents in their lives, and tries to keep it that way. The only way that you will not have joint custody is if the other parent is awarded a sole managing conservatorship (sole custody) in court.
A parent will usually only be able to get sole custody in very serious situations. A parent may be granted an SMC if the other parent is:
- Addicted to drugs,
- In jail or a psychiatric hospital,
- Absent from the child’s life, or
- Is otherwise dangerous to have in the child’s life.
If the other child was previously granted an SMC, it may be difficult to restore joint custody. As stated, the law does want to keep both parents in their children’s lives. If the court has previously decided that you should not be in your child’s life, there are many hurdles to overcome to restore joint custody. As the child’s parent, you do have the right to apply to a court for custody.
In order to restore custody, you will need to prove that the situations that lead to losing custody in the first place are no longer an issue. This may mean proving that you have taken serious steps to eliminate drug or anger problems, that you have parted from your criminal background, or that you have taken other steps to be able to support a child. If the court believes your case, they may restore joint custody.
If are leaving the household that you share with your child and the other parent, you may be entitled to joint custody. Unless you are abusive, an addict, or dangerous for your child, the State’s default to joint custody should be enough to entitle you to joint custody. Despite this, you will likely need an attorney to help define your parental rights, your child support duties, and your visitation, possession, and access rights.
Dallas Child Custody Lawyer
The Dallas child custody attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. fight for parental rights throughout the Dallas area. If your need an attorney to help protect your joint custody rights during a divorce, or if you need an attorney to help you regain your custody rights, call our family lawyers today. Call (817) 476-1797 today to schedule a free consultation.