What You Need to Know About Texas Child Custody Laws

What You Need to Know About Texas Child Custody LawsWe understand one of the major concerns for parents with children during a divorce is scheduling time with both parents. It is often a confusing and emotional subject and therefore it is helpful to have a family law attorney to help you navigate the legally binding agreement. They want to ensure the parents can provide for and caring for the children. The courts will determine custody based on what is best for the child.

  • Infidelity
  • Marital status
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion

How is custody different in Texas than in other states?

The Texas Family Code outlines child custody laws in Texas. Child custody laws in Texas are like other states but have some differences. Let’s look at three terms that differ from other states. Managing conservatorship means mostly what other states call custody; it can be held jointly by both parents or solely by one; the court will divide duties and rights between joint conservators. Possessory conservatorship means visitation; also referred to as “access” or “possession”. Texas law frameworks appointing individuals as conservators and grant rights of possession and access. Possession and access define visitation and how and how many times the child can be contacted by the noncustodial parent. Some common ways of contact phone, text or Skype. Primary physical residence is where the child lives most of the time; decided by the sole managing conservator or by the joint managing conservator given the power to decide by the judge.

The Standard Possession and Access Order

This is the court’s default order. However, courts allow parents to come up with non-standard schedules and the court decides if the schedule is in the best interest of the child. In some cases, parents may disagree regarding a parenting plan, decision making, or care of the children. When this happens, the case may have to go to court and a judge will make the decision. Another consideration is the distance between the non-custodial parent and child. If the non-custodial parent is more than 100 miles away, there is an alternate visitation schedule.

Can my child decide who he/she lives with?

No, a child under age 18 cannot decide who to live with. This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to child custody law in Texas. There is a magic age when a child can decide between parents and that age is 18.

The big reason that a being 12 or older matters in a custody case is that if a parent requests, the child must be interviewed by the judge.

Can I get sole custody of my child?

Some people want to know if they can be the sole conservator of the children. Many parents who ask me this question are really referring to being the primary conservator. Let’s read further to break down the categories of conservatorship in Texas; which are Managing Conservators and Possessory Conservators.

Managing Conservators

Under the Texas Family Code it is presumed that the parents should be named joint managing conservators.
Managing conservators are then further divided into sub-categories:

  1. sole managing conservator and
  2. joint managing conservator

Sole Managing Conservator

The parent has the exclusive right to make decisions for the child. In order to be the sole conservator, there has to be proof that it is in the best interests of the children. This may be granted in instances of domestic violence, substance abuse or exhibiting behaviors that can endanger the child.

Joint Managing Conservator

In this common scenario, both parents share the rights and duties of a parent, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions is awarded to only one person.  It is a common misconception that each parent must have equal periods of possession.
Possessory conservator is the person is granted the right to possession of the child in certain conditions and can exercise certain parental rights.

Parent Rights and Duties

In most cases, despite the type of visitation parents agree on, each parent has the right and responsibility to get information, make choices and decisions in regard to the children. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Access medical, dental and educational records
  • The right to confer with the other parent on medical, dental and education decisions
  • The right to attend school activities
  • The duty to inform the other parent information about the child’s medical conditions and education
  • The right to direct the consent to the child’s marriage or enlistment in the armed services.

Parenting time/ Vacation Schedules

Under the Texas family code, there is a standard schedule for possession of the child. In the standard schedule, when the non-custodial parent is living within 100 miles, and school is in session, they have the children on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.  The non-custodial parent also has possession:

  • 30 days in the summer
  • Every other Spring Break
  • Every other holiday

When a noncustodial parent lives more than 100 miles away, there are variations in the amount of time with the children that includes a longer amount of time during the summer.

If you have any questions about child custody, child support, or if you just need guidance through a rough divorce then reach out to our experienced attorneys for assistance.

If you are considering divorce and need assistance with a possession and access order in Texas, contact us at Cross Family Law at 972-675-7792.

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