Child Custody in Texas: Everything You Need to Know
Child custody is a crucial aspect of divorce and family law, and it can often be a complex and emotional process. In the state of Texas, understanding the various aspects of child custody is essential for parents going through a divorce or separation. This article will cover the different types of custody, the custody process, fees involved, the best interests of the child, and how to modify custody orders in Texas.
What are the Different Types of Custody in Texas?
In Texas, child custody is commonly known as conservatorship. There are two main types of parental conservatorship: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody gives a parent or parents the authority to make important decisions concerning the child’s life, such as medical decisions, education, religious practices, and other daily activities.
Physical custody refers to the possession of the child. In Texas, the parent with physical custody is referred to as the “possessory conservator,” and the court designates the child to live with that parent.
Conservatorship in Texas
Conservatorship is the formal term used in Texas for custody. There are two types of conservatorship:
- Sole Managing Conservatorship: One parent is responsible for making all decisions regarding the child’s life, including education, healthcare, and other aspects.
- Joint Managing Conservatorship: Both parents are involved in making decisions about the child’s upbringing and well-being.
Determining the Best Interests of the Child
The family court determines the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation. Several factors contribute to this decision, such as the child’s age and health, the parents’ qualifications, the stability of the home environment, the child’s relationship with siblings and extended family, and any history of domestic violence.
Possession and Access
In Texas, possession and access refer to the time a parent spends with their child. There are two categories within possession and access: standard and extended standard.
In uncontested and amicable divorces, parents may agree on a customized schedule that aligns with their needs. However, if the court believes that the proposed plan is in the child’s best interest, it may grant the request. Conversely, the court may deny the request if it deems the schedule unsuitable for the child’s development.
Parenting Class Requirements
Texas courts often require both parents to attend a parenting class during divorce. This class educates parents on the potential impact of divorce on children. It is typically offered in both in-person and online formats for convenience.
How Does the Child Custody Process Work in Texas?
The child custody process in Texas begins when one parent files a petition for conservatorship. The other parent must be officially served with the petition and has 20 days to respond. If the parents agree on a custody schedule, it is considered an uncontested case. Otherwise, the court may refer the case to mediation to reach a resolution.
Mother vs. Father: Custody Rights
In Texas, family and divorce courts do not favor one parent over the other based on gender. The court is directed to rule in the best interests of the child. However, mothers often tend to be awarded more custody or conservatorship rights, particularly if they have been the primary caregivers.
Texas Child Custody Fees
Filing for custody or conservatorship in Texas may involve various fees, such as filing fees, service fees, document fees, fees for court-appointed professionals, and preparation fees. These costs can add up to a significant amount, but some parents may be eligible for fee waivers based on financial need.
Requirements to Get Custody of a Child in Texas
Under Texas law, both parents are expected to share custody unless one parent is proven unfit. To obtain sole custody, a parent must file for possessory conservatorship (physical custody) or managing conservatorship (legal custody). The court will consider the best interests of the child and specific needs when determining custody.
Different Types of Visitation Orders
Visitation orders in Texas are based on the best interests of the child. Joint managing conservatorship allows both parents to be involved in decision-making, while sole managing conservatorship limits one parent’s involvement. Visitation schedules are often set to every other weekend, holidays, or vacations.
How to Get a Custody and Visitation Court Order
To obtain a custody and visitation court order, parents must submit a proposed parenting plan for approval. If both parents agree, the court is likely to approve it. Otherwise, the court will determine the conservatorship and access order based on various factors.
Child Custody Laws in Texas for Deciding Custody and Visitation
The Texas Family Code outlines child custody laws to determine custody and visitation. The court considers factors such as the child’s age, health, and special needs, the stability of the home environment, the child’s relationships, the parents’ involvement, and other relevant factors.
How Can You Change a Custody and Visitation Order in Texas?
To modify a custody and visitation order in Texas, a parent must file a petition for modification and provide evidence supporting the request. Changes may be granted if there is a significant change in circumstances or if it is in the child’s best interests.
Child custody in Texas involves complex legal considerations, and the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. Understanding the different types of custody, the custody process, fees, and the factors that determine custody decisions is essential for parents going through this challenging process.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- Can parents agree on a custody schedule in Texas? Yes, in uncontested and amicable divorces, parents can agree on a customized custody schedule that suits their needs and benefits the child.
- What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody? Legal custody gives a parent the authority to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, while physical custody refers to the possession of the child.
- Can a father get equal custody rights in Texas? Yes, Texas courts do not favor one parent over the other based on gender. Both parents have equal opportunities to secure custody rights based on the best interests of the child.
- What are the fees involved in filing for custody in Texas? Filing for custody or conservatorship in Texas may entail various fees, including filing fees, service fees, document fees, and fees for court-appointed professionals.
- How can I modify a custody order in Texas? To modify a custody order in Texas, you must file a petition for modification with evidence supporting the change in circumstances or the child’s best interests.