Child custody is a legal relationship between a parent and their child. However, there are additional necessary elements, such as child support, the right to decision-making for the child, their upbringing, medical care, and everything from everyday issues and routines to more pressing matters like their mental, physical, and emotional maturation. In addition, child custody is a parent’s responsibility to support while encouraging a child’s growth and appropriate development. You likely have already experienced many of the crucial aspects of parenting described above as a loving and caring parent seeking to win custody. However, it is still vital to define what a “custody win” means for yourself, your family, and your circumstances while also grasping a concrete understanding of the key terms and components of child custody in Texas, which you will find delineated below.
What is custody in Texas?
Custody is known as “conservatorship” in Texas. Conservatory roles are often carved out in divorce decrees or through a court order in a suit affecting a parent-child relationship (SAPCR).
After assessing the child’s best interests, the court has many options for resolving custodial matters. An order of joint managing conservatorship means both parents have significant decision-making authority with the child. Alternatively, the court may award sole managing conservatorship to one parent, granting the other “possession and access” (visitation) with the child.
Note: Parents may opt for an informal arrangement, but it is still recommendable to finalize an agreement with aid of legal counsel.
What are the different types of custody arrangements in Texas?
A court can order several types of conservatorship in a divorce or a SAPCR case. The text below outlines and describes the primary forms and terms.
- Conservatorship refers to the legal relationship between a parent and child. A parent who has been awarded conservatorship has certain rights and duties in relation to the child, such as the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing and the commitment to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Sole managing conservatorship refers to a situation in which one parent has been granted the right to be the primary decision-maker of the child with exclusive rights to determine the child’s primary residence. The other parent will only be granted possession and access (visitation).
- Joint managing conservatorship attributes parents with significant decision-making authority with the child. Parents are responsible for supplying and providing for their children’s emotional and physical needs.
- Possession and access (visitation) refers to the amount of time parents spend with their child. Access to the child may be given at specific times or more general “reasonable access.”
It is crucial to note that the court will review all case characteristics before adopting the appropriate conservatorship.
Determining Factors in Texas Custody Cases
Mothers and fathers are treated equally and are subject to the same rules and regulations regarding child custody and support issues. Courts place the child’s needs, interests, and welfare at the forefront of conservatorship, which includes striving for the child to have ongoing contact with both parents unless it is not in the child’s best interests. For example, if one parent has a history of abuse or neglect, the court may award sole managing conservatorship to the other parent. Other cases that may result in the same outcome include a parent being unable or unwilling to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child, a parent with substance abuse issues, or one otherwise unable to care for the child.
The court examines various factors in determining the child’s best interests, including their desires–if they are old enough. However, Texas law does not permit a child’s wishes to act as the catalyst of a Texas custody case. According to Texas Family Code, Title 5, Sec. 153.009, a child 12 years or older shall be interviewed in chambers to specify the child’s wishes concerning conservatorship or the individual who shall have the sole right to decide the child’s primary residence.
The court examines and assesses the child’s emotional and physical needs and the ability of each parent to provide for the child, in addition to a long list of other considerations.
Additional factors considered in determining the best interests of the child and custody include, but are not limited to:
- Parental abilities
- Emotional and physical danger to the child present and potentially in the future
- History and relationship between child and parent
- Parent’s desires concerning custody
- Parents decision-making ability
- Any programs available to assist in promoting the best interests of the child
- Plans for the child
- Home, life, work balance, and stability
- Location suitability
- Distance between residences and enrolled school
- The actions or omissions indicative of unhealthy or abusive parent-child relationship
- The desires of the child, if at sufficient age and maturity to express a reasonable preference
- The emotional, social, and physical needs of the child
The court will not hold any factor as more valuable than another but rather a holistic approach to determining the most appropriate outcome. So long as the child’s safety is not compromised, the court strives to maintain the child’s relationship with both parents, operating fairly, but this may translate differently than equal time.
How a Father Gains Custody
As a father, you are responsible for demonstrating that gaining conservatorship is the best result for your child. You may need to provide evidence about your relationship with your child, the child’s relationship with their mother, and additional relevant factors. Your ability to demonstrate engagement in your child’s life, provide a stable and nurturing environment, and model responsible decision-making skills are imperative to a successful case.
The child’s relationship with each parent, any siblings, and adjustments to home, school, and community are all up for assessment.
A father could present testimony from witnesses, e.g., family members, friends, or professionals who have interacted with you and your child. Documentation of your involvement in the child’s life, such as school records, medical records, and other relevant information, should be collected, organized, and reviewed by your attorney for the court.
A father’s employment, finances, and living arrangements may also be reviewed to determine his ability to provide a secure and nurturing home. In addition, confirmation of the father’s willingness to provide emotional support, including plans for meeting the child’s needs, should be prepared and thoughtfully presented to the court.
Specialized skills or knowledge pertaining to child welfare and wellbeing, such as medical training (e.g., CPR certification) or expertise in a particular area of child development, can fall under supporting evidence.
Note: Fathers who were never married to the mother will have to establish paternity in Texas, which can be done in several ways, including an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP).
How can an attorney help?
In Texas, an attorney can help you fight for conservatorship by providing representation, formulating and advising the most effective possible legal strategy, and negotiating with the other party or their attorney to reach agreements. A lawyer fluent in family law and familiar with Texas’s rules and court procedures can inform you of the legal process, conservator’s responsibilities, and potential case outcomes. An attorney serves as a reliable source of strength in addition to a resource of abundant knowledge. Start working on a robust roadmap to custodial success by contacting an experienced Texas family law attorney for a free and confidential consultation.
Attorney Kevin Hunter at Boudreaux Hunter & Associates, LLC has experience with child custody, spousal support, high conflict divorce, and is fully equipped to guide you through the process.