Child custody sets the rights and responsibilities concerning a child’s welfare when his parents divorce. These rights refer to:
- The physical possession of the child;
- Collecting the child’s earnings;
- Supervising religious views;
- Child’s living arrangements;
- Making medical decisions on the child’s behalf;
- Giving consent to worship, marry, travel, and work.
Child custody responsibilities include the duty to clothe, house, feed, educate, shelter, and take care of the child. In case of separation and divorce, if spouses cannot reach an agreement, a judge will assign custody rights.
Most custody issues are solved by joint legal custody. Joint legal custody means:
- The child lives with one parent while the other parent has visitation rights;
- Both spouses can get involved and make decisionsregardingthe child’s future, education, or health.
TEXAS child custody
In Texas, custody decisions are based on the best interests of a child. Texas courts promote mediation as a starting point. If this doesn’t lead to an agreement, the custody matter is moved further to the court, where a judge will make the final decision. Under Texas laws, a child’s best interests are clearly stated, considering various factors, such as:
- Child’s wish;
- Parent’s plans for the child;
- Child’s physical and emotional needs and possible dangers (both present and future);
- Home stability;
- The parenting skills of the person who seeks custody;
- A history proving an inappropriate parent-child relationship;
- A justification for the parent’s behavior or negligence.
Filing for Child Custody in Texas
For filing a child custody case in Texas, the following details are needed:
- Child’s address;
- The place where the child has lived within the past 5 years;
- Contact details of people who lived with the child or individuals who claimed physical or legal custody of the child during the past 5 years.
In order to file for custody in Texas, some rules apply:
- The child’s residence has to be in Texas, or he/she should’ve lived in this state for six months prior to the custody case;
- Parent’s connection with Texas has to go beyond simply living here (for instance their job location);
- A history of child’s background and education has to be available in Texas.
Under Texas law, grandparents are not granted custody and visitation rights. However, they can have visitation rights, such as:
- One weekend each month;
- One week in summer;
- A certain period of time over the Christmas vacation.
Grandparents can also file a lawsuit for primary custody of their grandchildren. The Texas Family Code allows this, only if:
- Grandparents can show evidence that the child’s present living situation is hazardous and can have an emotional negative impact;
- Parents or legal guardians give their consent.
Standard Possession Order in Texas
The Texas Family Code established a standard visitation schedule for a non-custodial parent, presumed in the child’s best interest, as it follows:
- On a monthly basis: the first, third and fifth weekends;
- Additional time on holidays and during summer vacations plus Thursdays between 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM;
- For distances over 100 miles, the regular 1/3/5 visitation calendar can be adjusted. For instance, the non-custodial parent can have the child at his home a single weekend per month, plus extra time during school holidays.
From our experience, parents often miscalculate when a month has a fifth weekend and lose precious time they should’ve spent with their children. In such cases, we, at the The Dieye Firm felt the need to raise awareness: if you have a Standard Possession Order (SPO), the non-custodial parent benefits from the next weekend as well.
Under Texas law, “Custody” is “Conservatorship”
Current Texas laws use the term “conservatorship” for describing “custody,” or the legal relationship between parents and children. This language twist is based on the fact that the parents’ duty is to “conserve and protect” their children. Therefore, when carrying a legal custody action in Texas, do not expect to hear expressions such as “full/sole/joint/primary custody”.
Two types of conservatorships exist:
- Managing conservatorship includes all the regular parental rights, including the right to manage child’s wealth until the child reaches adulthood. Other decisions refer to education, granting and withholding permission to marry and to enlist in the US armed forces, health care, religious orientation, psychological care, participation in extra-curricular activities;
- Possessory conservatorship includes visiting rights under a standard schedule and the additional right to bequeath and inherit properties or assets on a child’s behalf.
If there’s evidence of endangerment or abuse, the judge may restrict or eliminate a parent’s access to the child.
Managing conservatorship can refer to a single individual who has the managing conservatorship rights (“sole managing conservatorship”) or can include two or more individuals who share the duties of managing conservatorship in a so-called “joint managing conservatorship.”
The Texas Family Code assumes that nominating a child’s parents as joint managing conservators is in the child’s best interest, unless there is evidence of abusive or violent behavior involving the parents.
Have a knowledgeable lawyer on your side
Child custody is one of the most time consuming issues when dealing with a divorce. For years, we’ve been dedicating our time and expertise for securing our clients’ children’s welfare.
We’re ready to explain and discuss with you different custody arrangements, just to ensure the child’s rights are respected and his future is in safe hands. No matter if you’re a parent or a third party, our main concern in a custody case is obtaining both the client’s and child’s best interests.
Schedule a free initial consultation with us today. Hire an experienced family law and divorce attorney to guide you through the child custody process, from negotiations and agreements to court representation. We understand your concerns and we are ready to provide you high-quality legal advice for all individuals based in Houston, Brazoria County, Galveston, Fort Bend, and Harris.