What Is Child Custody in Texas?
Child custody is called conservatorship in Texas. Conservatorship is comprised of two elements:
- Managing conservatorship, and
- Physical possession.
When you bring a conservatorship case, the court will decide the issues of conservatorship and possession based on the child’s best interests.
Managing conservatorship is one element of a Texas child custody case. It involves assigning the right to make significant decisions concerning the child’s life to someone, usually one or both parents.
The significant decisions that a managing conservator can make include the right to make decisions about the child’s education, religion, medical care and treatment, and even the ability to get a passport for the child.
Generally, a Texas court presumes that both parents should have the right to make significant decisions on behalf of the child unless there is a history of abuse or other serious allegation. This is called joint managing conservatorship.
In this situation, both parents have the right to make major decisions about the child’s health, medical treatment, education, and religion. Joint managing conservators need to learn to communicate effectively for the welfare of their children, despite their differences.
A court may appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator if it’s in the child’s best interests. A court may designate only one parent as the managing conservator if the other parent has a recent history of abuse, for example. If you want sole managing conservatorship, you should speak with our Sugar Land child custody lawyer.
Physical Possession of the Child
Under Texas law, possession involves how the child divides their time between parents. Texas courts generally presume that a Texas standard possession order is in the child’s best interest.
Under the standard possession order, one parent’s home is designated as the child’s primary residence. The other parent has the child on the first, third, and fifth weekends of every month and every Thursday. The parents then split up all of the major holidays and birthdays.
The parents can agree to a different possession order if it’s in the child’s best interest. Parents, for example, have agreed to plans to split their possession time more evenly, akin to joint custody. However, when proposing an alternate plan, a judge will question whether the plan is disruptive to the child.
Best Interest of the Child
The court makes all conservatorship decisions based on the best interests of the child. To determine the best interests of the child, the court takes into account the following;
- The child’s age,
- The child’s emotional and physical needs,
- Each parent’s schedule and availability as caregivers,
- Whether the child will be harmed by separation from one parent,
- The child’s routine,
- The stability of each parent’s home,
- The presence of siblings,
- The risk of danger,
- Whether the parent has a history of violence or a criminal background, and
- The child’s wishes.
When deciding on the child’s best interests, the court may also request information from family members, teachers, and others in the child’s life.
A Parent’s History of Abuse
A court will not appoint a parent as a managing conservator if that parent has a history of violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, child neglect, or family violence. The court will often appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator in such a case.
Additionally, the court will restrict or eliminate the ability of a parent with an abusive history to access the child. The court may, however, permit supervised visitation so long as it doesn’t pose a risk to the child.
A child custody lawyer near Sugar Land can help you navigate a child custody case when one parent has a history of abuse.
How Long Does a Child Custody Case Last?
Parents often wonder how long a child custody dispute can take. How long a custody case takes depends on whether the parents can quickly agree or if there are major issues in dispute. If the parties can quickly agree and settle their case, they may barely spend time in court.
However, if they disagree about all aspects of the case, they may have to go through the entire court process, including trial. In that case, the court will make the conservatorship decisions.
In many cases, the court will refer the parties to mediation to try to get them to come to an agreement. Mediation is an informal process where a neutral third party, called the mediator, will try to get the parties to compromise. If this doesn’t work, the case will return to court. A Sugar Land child custody attorney can answer your questions about mediation and trial.
Can I Modify a Child Custody Order?
People’s lives change over time. Perhaps your once young children are now older with more activities on their schedules. If you need to change your child possession order, you’ll have to file for a modification in court.
The parents can amicably agree to a modification, or the court will decide. A court will only modify a possession order if there’s been a material and substantial change of circumstances from the time of the original order. For example, an out-of-area move or a significant medical diagnosis could be a substantial material change.
Child custody modifications can be complicated, especially if the other parent doesn’t agree with your modification proposal. You should contact a Sugar Land child custody modification lawyer for advice.
Contact a Sugar Land Child Custody Attorney
Family law cases are difficult to navigate, making a child custody case feel overwhelming. Fortunately, our skilled Sugar Land child custody lawyer at The Larson Law Office can help you through this process. You’ll receive personal legal help from our experienced family law practice. Contact us today.