Texas Child Custody Laws
Custody of Children, Visitation and the Best Interest of the Child
In the best of all situations, parents who are divorcing can work together to raise their child. Usually, by agreement, these parents have joint custody over their children. Even after trial, courts often appoint parents joint custodians. Alternatively, one parent can have custody and the other parent can have visitation only. The decision a Texas court makes depends upon the facts of each case. A parent who has a custody dispute needs experienced child custody attorneys. Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., has provided a brief summary of relevant Texas child custody laws below – our firm limits its practice to family law and can help answer your questions.
Partner Shannon Boudreaux has been practicing law since 2003 after her graduation from South Texas College of Law. While attending law school, Ms. Boudreaux was named to the Dean’s list. Throughout her legal career, Ms. Boudreaux has received awards and recognitions for her legal skills. Ms. Boudreaux’s partner, Kevin Hunter, enrolled in law school after serving his country in the Air Force and becoming a firefighter. While still a student, Mr. Hunter competed at the varsity level in moot court competitions at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta and at Pepperdine University School of Law in Southern California.
Texas Legal Terminology
Texas has some peculiar terminology when it comes to child custody and visitation. In many other states, a parent has either sole custody or joint custody with the other parent. Texas uses the phrase “managing conservatorship” instead of custody. But it basically means the same thing.
The court can appoint the parents as joint managing conservators who share decision-making authority even though the child lives with only one of them. If one parent is the sole managing conservator, the other parent is normally appointed “possessory conservator” which means that the parent has rights to visitation with the child. We explain this by way of background, but for the sake of simplicity we will use the common terms custody and visitation.
Which Parent for Child Custody?
If the court determines that making the parents joint custodians will not work, then one parent will normally have sole custody. The law presumes granting visitation to the other parent to be in the child’s best interest. To make these determinations, the court may consider many factors unique to each case. Some of the statutory factors that would likely disqualify a parent from joint child custody are a history or pattern of family violence, child abuse or child neglect, or a final family violence protective order against the parent.
Best Interest of the Child
In making decisions about child custody, the best interest of the child “shall always be the primary consideration of the court.” The Texas Supreme Court has provided a list of items a court should consider when making custody decisions. They are:
- the desires of the child;
- the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
- the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;
- the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
- the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child;
- the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody;
- the stability of the home or proposed placement;
- the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and
- any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.
The list is non-exhaustive but serves to set out the types of things a court should consider when deciding child custody.
Visitation When No Child Custody
Texas’ public policy is to assure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with the child’s parents. For that reason, Texas has liberal visitation. Visitation is governed by the “Standard Possession Order” (remember the peculiar terminology?).
Under the Standard Possession Order, the noncustodial parent has the children on the first, third and (if there is one) the fifth weekend each month. The weekend normally starts on Friday after school and ends on Sunday evening, but under an expanded version of the order, the weekend can begin on Friday after school and end Monday morning. In addition, the noncustodial parent has the child every Thursday evening during the school year. Major holidays are either alternated or split, and each parent receives a block of time in the summer.
If you or someone you know is facing a child custody dispute, either for the first time or in a modification proceeding, you should consult with an experienced child custody attorney. Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., has the experience to help you.
Work With a Team Who Truly Cares
You Don't Have to Interpret Texas Child Custody laws on your own
In some cases, parents can reach an agreement about all relevant issues without a court hearing. This is often accomplished through mediation. In contentious cases, however, this is not possible. When a couple is unable to work out these issues on their own, their only option is to litigate the case in court.
You Don't Have to Face This Difficult Time Alone
Are you ready to discuss your case with an experienced Texas child custody lawyer? If so, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We understand how difficult it can be to go through a divorce, even if you are the one who made the decision. Our entire staff is here to offer the support, guidance, and compassionate representation you deserve.