Child custody laws are not only complex but they are tied to the most precious things in our lives; our children. Unfortunately, child custody determinations are often tied to divorce proceedings and therefore can become rather nasty. If you are going through a divorce or have questions regarding child custody, below are nine things you may want to know about child custody in Texas.
- Texas has a strong presumption for both parents to be involved - Texas courts have been reluctant to grant one parent sole custody, instead preferring that both parents have a role in the raising and upbringing in a child’s life. Therefore, in the absence of any facts or circumstances that may indicate that the parent is unfit or unsafe to be a parent the Texas courts will generally grant a joint managing conservatorship.
- A child must live in the state for at least six months before a child custody order will be issued - There have been many cases where one parent takes the child to another state and immediately files for custody over a child. In an effort to curtail this from happening, a minor is required to have lived in Texas for at least six months before a parent can file for custody over the child.
- All parents need to be informed - This point goes with the above point. Unless every parent currently lives in the state, if a parent is filing for custody over a minor in the state of Texas, the parent will be required to provide the court the names of all people who have maintained custody over the child in the past five years. The parent will also be required to include all information as to where the child has lived.
- Child custody issues can be modified - Many people believe that a child custody order or final and cannot be changed, however, the court is empowered to modify, even substantially, a child custody order. If the court determines that the child’s needs have changed, or the parent's situation has changed the court may choose to change a child custody order. In some cases, the court may change a joint managing conservatorship to a single managing conservatorship, whereby the other parent may lose rights over the child.
- In a Texas court, custody of the child is referred to as conservatorship - There are two types of conservatorship: a Joint Managing Conservatorship and a Single Managing Conservatorship. Texas has a strong presumption towards both parents having an active role in the child or children’s’ lives, and therefore in the absence of any allegations of abuse, neglect, or criminality of one parent the court will strongly favor issuing a joint managing conservatorship. The court is chiefly concerned with providing the child with consistency and stability.
- The Best Interest of the Child is always considered - In making a determination pertaining to child custody, the court will always consider the best interest of the child. Indeed, this is their foremost and top priority. Each and every determination issued by the court will be focused on what is in the child’s best interest, and what will provide the child with the most stable environment.
- Children have a say - Children who are over the age of 12 can be interviewed by the judge before the judge makes a determination regarding child custody. The judge will take this interview very seriously, and in the absence of evidence that the child was improperly influenced the court will take this interview into consideration in making a custody determination.
- Both parents are expected to contribute - Even in the event that one parent is awarded sole custody over the child, over the strong presumption that both parents should share jointly in the raising and upbringing of the child, parents are still expected to and encouraged to make positive steps in ensuring the welfare of a child. Regardless, of a parent being awarded sole custody the other parent is expected to act and behave in a manner that ensures the well-being of the minor. This is important for those parents who have been denied a joint managing conservatorship but want to have an active role in their child’s life to take into consideration.
- Maintaining Status quo is the name of the game - When the court is attempting to make a custody determination, a Texas court will look to maintain the status quo before they issue an order for a final conservatorship. Texas is unique, in that Texas allows for jury trials in custody matters. However, it is fairly uncommon for a Texas judge or jury to disturb temporary order unless it is clear that new facts have been established which should change a temporary order.
Contact Our Texas Family Law Attorneys in Dallas, Arlington, and Houston
To set up a free legal consultation about your Texas family law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797. With more than 20 years of legal experience representing mothers and fathers throughout the Arlington area, our attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.