Determining Child Custody in Texas

Going through a divorce brings a vast array of changes to a person’s life. One of the things people often find most difficult to face is the idea that they will have to divide their time with their children with their spouses, instead of having the children all of the time as they are accustomed. In some cases, parents cannot agree on how to share time with the children and the court needs to make a child custody decision.

Types of Custody

Texas uses unique terminology not found in other states for the types of custody arrangements that parents can have. Instead of calling it “custody,” Texas law refers to “conservatorships.” The three options for conservatorships are:

  • Sole managing conservatorship: A sole managing conservatorship is similar to what many other states call sole legal and physical custody. The parent with whom the child lives has full rights to make decisions about the child’s education, religious training, health care and other related areas.
  • Sole possessory conservatorship: When a parent has sole possessory conservatorship, he or she tends to the child’s welfare when he or she is caring for the child. However, the parent has little to no rights to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
  • Joint managing conservatorship: In a joint managing conservatorship, the parents share decision-making authority about the child’s upbringing. However, the court need not distribute the power equally. Additionally, the parents share time with the child, but not necessarily equally. The parents will still have to determine who has “primary possession” of the child.

Best Interest of the Child

The law directs the court to base its child custody decisions on the best interests of the children involved. The court presumes that a joint managing conservatorship is appropriate, unless a parent provides evidence to the contrary. The court does not automatically favor one parent over the other when making custody decisions.

Some of the factors a court weighs when determining a child’s best interests include:

  • Whether a joint managing conservatorship addresses the child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs
  • Whether each parent can set the child’s welfare as the highest priority when making decisions about the child
  • Whether each parent is willing to foster a parent-child relationship between the child and other parent
  • To what extent each parent participated in child-rearing activities prior to the divorce
  • How close parents live to one another
  • If the child is over 12, the child’s preference regarding living arrangements
  • Any other factors the court considers relevant

Talk to a Lawyer

Child custody battles can be emotionally-charged and difficult to handle alone. Parents with questions about child custody should consult an adept family lawyer who can discuss their situations and offer counsel.