Child Custody: What You Need To Know
Both parents will be interested in how child custody is determined in Texas. For plenty of couples, this will be the most important issues decided in their divorce case. Unless you are on amicable terms with your former spouse and can come to your own terms of agreement over these issues, you could end up in front of a judge waiting to hear what time you’ll have with your kids.
Due to the highly emotional nature of TX child custody, it’s easy for this aspect of your divorce to become the tensest one discussed. With your own emotions tied up at the end of the marriage, it’s natural to want to ensure you get plenty of time with your kids and that their living situation remains as positive and stable as possible. Knowing what to expect and how the court is likely to evaluate child custody helps you prepare for this legal case and to hire an experienced Texas child custody attorney.
During this challenging time, you deserve to have a lawyer who cares about you and your future. Your kids are key in your life, and your attorney should recognize all the avenues available to you with custody. During your initial consultation, your lawyer will explain to you what temporary vs. long-term custody might look like if you were to go forward with filing for divorce. This is also your chance to get questions answered about child custody so you can prepare for the filing or a response to the other spouse’s petition for divorce.
In the event that you think you might be able to cooperate with your former spouse to come to terms of the agreement, an attorney’s insight can still be helpful as you develop a parenting plan.
What You Need to Know About Texas Child Custody
Going through a Texas child custody case can be one of the most overwhelming and stressful aspects of your life, particularly if you are not familiar with child custody or are unsure of how the other spouse will react with regards to attempting to resolve your custody case.
Many people are under the impression that they will be able to resolve things peacefully outside of court. This can and does happen in child custody mediation but it is not always an option if the other party is unwilling to cooperate with you. If you find yourself in the position of struggling to figure out what to do next when you need to protect your interests and rights to see your children, speaking with a Texas child custody lawyer could enable you to get many of your questions answered and to determine how you need to proceed to best protect your visitation rights.
Basics of Child Custody in Texas
In Texas, child custody is referenced by another term: conservatorship. This means that Texas courts are responsible for naming a child’s conservator, which is a formal term to explain the legal duties and rights of a parent. If both parents can cooperate on a sharing plan, then the court only has to approve the agreement for how custody will be divided. If both parents are unable to come to terms of the agreement on their own, a family law judge decides the terms of a conservatorship.
The primary guidance for selecting child custody in Texas is based on the best interests of the child. Both parties should take this into account when attempting to resolve child custody on their own but the court will also review various factors associated with a child’s best interests. The two primary types of child conservatorships in Texas include a sole managing conservatorship and a joint managing conservatorship.
Custody or conservatorship in Texas typically includes the right to:
- Discuss medical concerns with a psychologist, physician, or dentist.
- Get access to psychological, dental, medical or educational records about the child.
- Get details from the other parent about the education, health or welfare of the child.
- Discuss the child’s will for an educational status with school officials.
What is the Sole Managing Conservatorship?
SMC or sole managing conservatorship refers to the court granting one parent only the legal ability to make decisions about the child. That parent has certain rights, like:
- Agreeing to medical and dental treatment.
- Consenting to psychological and psychiatric treatment.
- Receiving child support.
- The ability to attend school events.
- Making decisions about the child’s education.
Would a Court Ever Grant One Parent an SMC?
There are many different reasons that a court might grant only one parent SMC. If one parent does not agree with joint managing conservatorship or custody responsibilities, it is a leading reason why this might happen. Other reasons could include that the other person is not active in the child’s life, the other party has a problem with past alcohol or criminal activity, the other individual has a history of neglect/violence or there is a history of serious disagreements between the parents having to do with various issues or values from raising a child.
When is Joint Managing Conservatorship Used?
There is a belief and guideline in Texas that parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators, which means that both parents share the duties and rights of a parent. The exclusive right to make certain decisions could still be awarded to only one parent. The court evaluates this based on the best interests of the child. If both parents are named as conservators, the judge will specify each parent’s responsibilities separately and jointly.
What is Texas Visitation?
In Texas, visitation is referred to as possession of access to the child or children. A parent is eligible to get possession or access unless a judge determines that it would not be in the best interests of the child or the physical/emotional wellbeing of that child to have regular interaction with one or more of the parents.
When Can a New Custody Case Be Generated?
Per Texas Family Code 152.201, a new child custody case can be created affecting a child if:
- A court of another state has no jurisdiction
- A court of another state has declined jurisdiction.
If you are petitioning for the custody of a child, the child must have lived within that state for a minimum of six months. Another reason that a child custody case can be initiated is if a state is the home state of a child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding.
Can Custody Orders Be Modified?
Child custody issues could be amended or modified in Texas by the court that created the first custody decision. If the court has created an initial custody determination for a child, that court then has exclusive jurisdiction under the Texas Family Code.
What Is Unique About Texas Child Custody?
The use of the word conservatorship is one of the leading issues associated with Texas child custody that makes it unique. There is both a possessory conservator and a managing conservator.
Can a Parent Decide Which Child They Live With?
Parents frequently ask their divorcing child custody attorneys whether or not a child can decide which parent they live with. The only important age when a child can elect between parents is age 18. Being 12 is one of the most important age categories for a child going through a custody case. This is because if a parent requests it, that child can then be interviewed by the judge.
Does the Parent Not Have Any Rights if I was Established as an SMC?
In most cases a parent of a child, whether a joint, sole or possessory conservator, has the following rights and duties;
- The right to receive information from any other conservator of the children regarding education, health, and welfare.
- The right to attend school activities.
- The duty to inform other conservators of the children in a timely manner about significant details regarding the education, health, and welfare of the child.
- The right to be designated on the child’s medical records as an emergency contact.
- The right to consult with school officials.
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the children if the conservator resides for at least 30 days or intends to marry a person who is a known sex offender.
When one parent has been designated as sole managing conservator, the other party is known as the possessory conservator. This means that this second party has the right to possess the child or children through an ordered visitation schedule.
What Influence Does a History of Domestic Violence Have on a Child Custody Case?
As is mentioned above, there is a presumption under the law that parents should be named as joint managing conservators in Texas. The court, of course, will use the best interests of the child’s standard. The court considers numerous factors, such as:
- The stability of the home environment.
- The plans that each parent has for the child.
- Parental abilities.
- Danger to the child.
- The child’s desires.
- The emotional and physical needs of the child.
- Whether there is evidence of domestic violence.
- Whether either parent has filed a false report of child support.
What Will the Court Consider While Determining Primary Conservator?
The primary parent is the one who is awarded the exclusive right to designate the primary child residence. There are many different factors that the court will evaluate and ask for further information about this. This includes;
- Who got the child ready for school?
- Who fed the child?
- Who helped with the child’s homework?
- Who bathed the child?
- Who picked the child up from daycare or school?
- Who attended parent-teacher conferences and school activities?
- Who scheduled and took the child to and from doctor’s appointments?
If you have questions about Texas child custody and are curious about how to protect yourself and respond to challenges presented by the other party, scheduling a consultation with an experienced Texas child custody lawyer immediately should be your next step.