How Is Custody Determined in Texas?

Types of Custody

In Texas, custody is referred to as conservatorship, and parents are called conservators. Both mothers and fathers have the same parental rights and responsibilities to their children. When parents divorce, they must establish a custody agreement. If the parents cannot agree on their own, the courts will step in and decide for them. When this happens, the courts are guided by what is in the best interest of the children.

There are three types of custody in Texas:

  • Joint managing conservatorship
  • Sole managing conservatorship
  • Possessory conservatorship

It is initially presumed that both parents should share joint managing conservatorship of their children. When parents are awarded joint managing conservatorship, they are both responsible for making decisions about their child’s upbringing, including their medical care, education, and religious upbringing. However, joint managing conservatorship does not mean that both parents have equal time with the child.

In some cases, one parent may be awarded sole managing conservatorship. When this happens, only one parent is granted the right to make important decisions about the child, including where the child’s primary residence will be. Sole managing conservatorship is typically awarded in situations that involve abuse or when one parent is absent.

Possessory conservatorship refers to visitation. When one parent has possessory conservatorship, they enjoy visitation with their child, but they do not make decisions for the child. In these cases, the sole managing conservator will make the decisions.

Factors in Determining Custody

When making a conservatorship decision, the courts prioritize the best interests of the child. While the courts generally presume that joint conservatorship is in a child’s best interest, they look at several factors before deciding. Typically, the courts seek to preserve the child’s relationship with both their parents and provide both parents with adequate and appropriate parenting time. If one parent is seeking sole conservatorship, they will have to prove to the courts that this is in the child’s best interest.

The courts consider many things when making custody decisions, including:

  • The age of the child
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The ability of both parents to provide a healthy, safe environment
  • The financial ability of each parent to provide for the child
  • Where the parents live in relation to each other and where the child goes to school
  • Any health or special needs of the child

The courts may also consider the child’s preference when determining custody. However, this is typically reserved for older children and is not always deemed appropriate. Additionally, while a child may state their preference, the court is not obligated to adhere to the child’s wishes.

What Do I Do if I Am Unhappy with My Custody Order

When the courts issue a custody order, it is legally binding. However, this does not mean that it is permanent. While the courts work to develop a custody order that will serve the child and the family in the long term, circumstances can change that make a modification necessary. Typically, an amendment to your conservatorship order can only be sought if a parent or the child has experienced a significant and lasting change in circumstances. You will not qualify for a modification if you simply do not like your custody arrangement. It is also important to note that there may be a mandatory waiting period before you can legally modify your custody order.

If you believe you qualify for a custody modification or have some other issue with your custody order, you should reach out to a trusted attorney. Dealing with custody matters can be incredibly complicated. An experienced lawyer like ours at Rodriguez & Gimbert can answer your questions, help you uncover all your legal options, and represent you in court if need be.