Child Custody Attorneys, Houston TX
- Houston Child Custody
- Legal Custody
- Physical Custody
- The Standard Possession Order
- Factors Considered in Determining Custody
- Modification of Child Custody Orders
Child custody cases can be emotional, difficult, and heart-breaking. From paternity suits to divorces, disputes over who gets custody or possession of the children are common in nearly every family law case. Child custody cases can even continue throughout a child's life if one of the parents decides to seek modification or if an agency of the State gets involved with the children. No matter the case, the overriding concern of the courts will always be to do what is in the best interest of the child. However, making these decisions is never simple or clear-cut.
Referred to in Texas as conservatorship, Legal Custody determines who has the right to make certain decisions for the child. The default presumption in court is that the children will best be served when both parents are fully involved in raising their children. Both parties are generally be expected to co-parent, and make decisions together for the benefit of the children. This includes, for example: educational decisions, deciding medical treatment for the child or allowing the child to enlist in the military. Sometimes, the courts will determine this joint decision-making is not in the best interest of the child and award those decisions to one parent.
Texas does not really distinguish between physical custody and legal custody, but it does emphasize the rights of parents to have possession and access to their children. The custodial parent is the parent who has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. This means that the child will be at this parent’s house the majority of the time. The other parent, called the non-custodial parent, will have visitation as agreed or according to a schedule set out in the Texas family Code, often referred to as a Standard Possession Order (SPO). Texas law encourages parents to work together and agree on the times each party can have possession and access to the children.
The Standard Possession Order
In Texas, this default schedule (SPO) allows one parent to have possession and access to their child on the first, third, and fifth weekend of every month and two hours on Thursday during the school year. It rotates holidays between the parents and the non-custodial parent will get an extended period during the summer break. However, if the parents can cooperate on forming a schedule, the court may defer to the parents’ choice. Parties can agree on alternating weeks, specific weekends and holidays, or a schedule that takes trips and shift work into account.
Factors Considered in Determining Custody
What is in the best interest of the child is the primary question the court will consider in deciding custody issues.The Texas Supreme Court outlined several factors for the court to consider in deciding custody issues. The 1976 case of Holley v. Adams offers guidance for the court and some of the factors are:
- The desires of the child
- The emotional and physical needs of the child at present, and in the future
- Any danger to the child at present, or in the future
- The parental abilities of the parties who are requesting custody
- Programs available to assist the parties in promoting the best interests of the child
- Plans for the child by the party requesting custody
- The stability of the parties’ homes
- Acts or omissions of a parent which might indicate an improper relationship with the child
Since this list is non-exhaustive, it won’t explicitly dictate what decisions will be reached in a case. Generally, courts decide custody issues by looking at several factors including which parent acted as the “primary caregiver." Questions for the court include the following:
- Arranging and attending doctor’s appointments,
- Transporting the child to and from school or extracurricular activities,
- Bathing the child, feeding the child,
- And all other general day-to-day tasks required to raise the child.
Depending on the age of the child and at the request of a parent, the court may question a child to determine that child’s preference although that preference is not binding on the court. Their preference is merely considered as another factor in the overall determination of custody.
Modification of Child Custody Orders
Court orders can always be modified as circumstances change for the parents and for the children. Parents or non-parents can seek to modify an order if justified by the circumstances. For example,relocation of either party or child, newly arisen health or educational factors, or various other substantial changes the court believes merits a modification of the order
We Can Help With Your Child Custody Case
We know what a court is looking for when it is determining custody issues in Texas. We can help you build your case, provide advice, and advocate for your right to custody, possession, and access to your child.