Child Custody Questions

Understanding how child custody works in Texas may help divorcing parents reach agreements that are best suited for their families.

With few exceptions, it is presumed that children in Texas and elsewhere benefit from having a relationship with each of their parents. To this end, family law courts in the state favor custody, or conservatorship, agreements that facilitate the continued involvement of both parents in their children's lives following divorces. In order to achieve a custody arrangement that works for their families, it may help parents to have an understanding of conservatorships.

What are the different types of conservatorships?

There are two primary types of conservatorship that Texas parents may be granted — managing and possessory. Managing conservatorships give people the right to make decisions about their children, including choices regarding their education, medical care and religious upbringing. Depending on various factors, the court may name parents sole or joint managing conservators. Maintaining the rights of a parent, but not receiving the final say on the majority of decisions, a possessory conservatorship allows people visitation with their children.

What is a standard possession order?

Texas includes a standard possession order within the custody arrangement. This order provides a parenting time schedule for parents with joint managing conservatorship. It is essentially a court-ordered parenting plan if parents cannot agree on a parenting plan of their own.

What should a good parenting plan include?

Here are some tips to create a parenting plan that parents with a joint conservatorship arrangement should consider.

How is custody determined in Texas?

When parents are unable to reach reasonable child custody agreements on their own, the decision falls to the court. In making their determinations, family law judges may consider a range of factors in order to decide what is in the best interests of the child. This includes taking the following into account:

  • Each person's parenting abilities
  • The current and future emotional and physical needs of the child
  • The stability of each parent's home
  • Each parent's plans for the child
  • The child's wishes

In making their determination, family law courts are not permitted to give any consideration to either parent's sex or marital status. Judges may, however, take into account any acts or omissions by either parent.

How does the custody arrangement affect the child support agreement?

Generally, the noncustodial parent will pay child support. The amount of support payments is based on various factors of:

  • The financial needs and income of the custodial parent
  • The living expenses and needs of the child
  • The noncustodial parent's ability to pay
  • The family's standard of living before the divorce

Child support payments depend mainly on each parent's income if they have joint custody. If there is a considerable difference between the two incomes, the higher-earning parent may still pay child support. If the incomes are roughly the same, there is a chance that neither parent will need to pay support, as long as they collaborate on the child's living expenses.

Can custody orders be changed?

As children grow and families' circumstances change, the need may arise to adjust an existing conservatorship order. In such cases, either parent may petition the court for a child custody modification. If both parents are in agreement regarding the proposed changes, the process may be more of a legal formality. However, if they do not agree, the court may consider numerous factors in order to determine whether or not to approve the requested modifications.

When can I request a modification to the custody order?

Parents must meet specific requirements to request a change to a custody arrangement.

What are the circumstances that full custody is ordered?

Most family courts seek joint custody of their children. However, there are a few situations where a parent could obtain full custody of their child, including:

  • The other parent is unfit because of addiction, neglect, abuse or other issues
  • The other parent is absent from your life and your child's life
  • The child prefers to live with one parent (preference is taken into account for children over the age of 12)

Should I seek legal guidance?

Navigating the complexities of reaching custodial agreements can be challenging for parents in Texas and elsewhere. Therefore, those who are petitioning for conservatorship over their children or who wish to modify an existing custody order may find it helpful to obtain legal assistance. An attorney may guide them through the process and negotiate on their behalf, looking out for the best interests of them and their children.

What exactly is the child's best interest standard?

Divorce and child custody can be difficult on you and your children. The child's best interest standard is meant to help protect children and maintain stability during these life changes. The factors included in this standard include:

  • Determining a child's individual needs
  • Maintaining the need for a stable home
  • Remaining where they are comfortable for school and housing
  • Continuing relationships with parents and other family members

The court's main goal by following this standard is to make things as easy as possible for children when facing complex family legal issues.