We don’t have to tell you that raising children isn’t easy. Furthermore, figuring out how to raise a child after separating from the child’s other parent can overwhelm the best of us.
Sometimes, you may feel that getting full custody in Texas is your best option. If you’re asking how to win full custody as a father or how to win full custody as a mother, we want to help you understand the process.
As a preliminary matter, there is no actual term of “full custody” under the Texas Family Code, even though most people use that term. Most often, when people say “full custody” they mean who the children live with during the school week, which is referred to as “primary” in Texas.
Sometimes though people use “full custody” as meaning the other parent relinquishing or terminating their parental rights. Other times people use “full custody” as meaning sole managing conservatorship and supervised custody for the other parent. In this article, “full custody” will be treated as synonymous with “sole managing conservatorship”
Basic Parental Rights in Texas
The first thing to understand when determining how to get full custody of a child in Texas is the scope of the general rights that every Texas parent has. Under Texas law, every parent typically has the right to have “physical possession” of their child.
Additionally, every parent normally has the right to participate in making legal, health, educational, moral, religious, relationship, and residential decisions for their child. Each parent also has multiple duties to care for and support their child.
When parents separate, Texas law wants both parents to share their parental rights and responsibilities. If you don’t believe this sharing is possible in your situation, there are a handful of ways you can get sole custody in Texas.
How to Get Full Custody in Texas
You can fight for two kinds of custody in the Texas family law system: physical custody and legal custody. Texas law calls physical custody “possessory conservatorship,” and it labels legal custody as “managing conservatorship.” If you have sole physical custody, your child lives with you full time. If you have sole legal custody, you normally have exclusive rights to:
- Decide the location of your child’s residence,
- Consent to healthcare for your child,
- Hold or spend support payments for your child,
- Handle your child’s legal issues,
- Make decisions about your child’s education,
- Consent to your child’s marriage,
- Apply for and keep travel documents for your child,
- Consent to your child’s military service, and
- Utilize your child’s earnings and services.
You can fight for one or both of these kinds of custody. Once you determine what kind of child custody you’re seeking, you need to determine the best way to file for it.
How to File for Full Custody in Texas
There are two ways you can win full custody in a family court:
- You can file for sole custody or
- You can file to terminate the other parent’s rights.
You start your case by filing a custody or termination petition in the court where your child is a resident or in the court that presides over your divorce (if applicable). You then serve the other parent, or anyone else with custody rights, with the citation.
Now that you know how to get your case started, you need to know how to fight for your position.
How to Fight for Full Custody in Texas
Petitioning for termination of the other parent’s rights requires you to meet a different burden of proof than simply petitioning for sole custody.
Fighting for sole custody
To win sole custody, you generally have to prove that it’s in the best interest of your child. When deciding what’s in your child’s best interest, the court might look at many factors, including:
- Your child’s specific needs,
- Any relevant history of abusive behavior from you or the other parent,
- Any relevant history of neglect by you or the other parent, and
- Any relevant history of violence from you or the other parent.
It’s important to gather and organize as many records and statements as you can regarding your child’s needs and how they haven’t been met by the other parent.
Fighting to terminate the other parent’s rights
Filing to terminate someone else’s parental rights is a drastic measure, but it’s unfortunately necessary in some cases. If you believe it’s necessary to terminate the rights of your child’s other parent, we empathize with how difficult it must have been to come to that conclusion.
The State of Texas does not terminate parental rights easily. To terminate their rights you must prove that the other parent:
- Abandoned your child,
- Endangered your child,
- Neglected your child,
- Caused serious injury or death to a child,
- Committed certain criminal offenses,
- Engaged in certain forms of substance abuse, or
- Had their parental rights to another child terminated because of endangerment.
You might need to compile relevant police reports, court documents, medical reports, protection orders, and testimony to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the other parent committed one of the listed acts. Clear and convincing evidence is a high standard to fulfill. Your best option for success is to hire a skilled child custody attorney who can meet this standard for you.
How Can a Father Get Full Custody in Texas?
If you’re a father trying to figure out how to get full custody of your child in Texas, don’t assume that you don’t have equal custody rights in family court. Gone are the days when courts automatically determined that a mother should have sole custody regardless of the facts of the case. When deciding custody matters, Texas family law doesn’t consider your sex, the sex of your child, or your marital status.
In general, the court considers your characteristics as a parent, your child’s needs, and the characteristics of the other parent when making its decision. That being said, sometimes the best way for a father to get custody in Texas is by being proactive about his paternity and parental involvement from the beginning.
There are a few custody laws that specifically affect fathers
Fathers who voluntarily and knowingly abandon mothers who are pregnant with their children can be subject to termination of their parental rights. And fathers who weren’t married to the mother, weren’t living with the child for the first two years, or didn’t acknowledge their paternity might not be recognized as parents.
If you’re not married to the pregnant mother of your child, do what you can to support the mother and your child. You might need to prove you were around once you knew about the child to get any custody rights, let alone sole custody.
The Best Way for a Mother to Get Custody in Texas
Remember, the rules and standards for how to get sole custody in Texas are the same for mothers and fathers. But mothers’ parental rights can be terminated if they used alcohol or illegal, nonprescription drugs while pregnant.
If you have a notion that the other parent of your child might try to use this argument to terminate your rights, you should speak to an attorney immediately. And you should collect as many documents as possible to prove that you didn’t engage in that activity. Also, remember to keep any documents that prove that a father claiming custody doesn’t legally qualify as a parent.
Don’t Wait to Speak to an Attorney When Your Child’s Wellbeing Is at Stake
At The Larson Law Office, we know how to win child custody in Texas. The fight for sole custody isn’t always easy or realistic, and it’s often emotional. But if you’re in the greater Houston area, we’re here to help you make the best possible decisions in your custody battle and help you put yourself in a position to obtain the best possible results with the facts of your case.