Child custody in Texas refers to the legal and physical care of a child following the separation or divorce of their parents. It encompasses the rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions about their child’s upbringing, education, healthcare, and general welfare.
Types of Child Custody
Legal custody refers to the authority to make major decisions about the child’s life, including matters related to education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Texas law uses the term managing conservatorship to refer to legal custody.
In Texas, legal custody can be granted solely to one parent (sole legal custody) or shared between both parents (joint legal custody).
Physical custody involves the day-to-day care and residence of the child. It determines where the child will live and spend the majority of their time. Like legal custody, physical custody can be awarded solely to one parent (sole physical custody) or shared between both parents (joint physical custody).
Texas law uses the term possessory conservatorship to refer to legal custody.
How Custody Is Determined in Texas
In Texas, custody determinations are made based on the best interests of the child standard, prioritizing the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being above all else. When parents are unable to reach a mutually acceptable custody agreement, the court may intervene and make custody decisions on their behalf.
The following factors are considered when determining custody arrangements in Texas.
Courts consider the age, gender, health, and developmental stage of the child when making custody determinations. They also take into account any special needs or requirements the child may have.
Courts evaluate each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs. This includes factors such as stability, caregiving skills, involvement in the child’s life, and willingness to foster a positive relationship with the other parent.
Child’s Relationship with Parents
The strength and quality of the child’s relationship with each parent are significant considerations. Courts assess the child’s bond with each parent and their ability to maintain meaningful connections with both parents following separation or divorce.
Courts favor parents who demonstrate a willingness and ability to cooperate and communicate effectively in matters concerning the child’s upbringing and welfare. A parent’s ability to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent is also taken into account.
Depending on the child’s age, maturity level, and circumstances, their wishes regarding custody may be considered by the court. While the child’s preferences are taken into account, they are not determinative and must be balanced with other relevant factors.
Stability and Continuity
Courts consider the child’s current living arrangements, including their school, community, and relationships with siblings, friends, and extended family members. They strive to minimize disruption and maintain stability in the child’s life post-divorce.
Safety and Protection
The safety and protection of the child are paramount considerations in custody determinations. Courts examine any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, or other factors that may pose a risk to the child’s well-being.
Based on these factors, Texas courts may grant either sole or joint custody, depending on what is deemed most beneficial for the child’s best interests. Custody orders may also include provisions for visitation schedules, parental rights and responsibilities, and dispute resolution.
Law Reference: Texas Family Code – FAM § 263.307.
Child custody in Texas encompasses legal and physical care arrangements for children following the separation or divorce of their parents. Determinations regarding custody are made based on the best interests of the child standard, considering factors such as the child’s needs, parental abilities, relationships with parents, cooperation between parents, stability, safety, and the child’s preferences.
By prioritizing the child’s well-being, Texas family courts aim to establish custody arrangements that promote stability, security, and positive parent-child relationships in the aftermath of divorce or separation.