Ilarraza Law understands the emotional nature of cases involving children. We are committed to providing compassionate and zealous advocacy for our clients through every stage of their child custody case. The Texas child custody process can be complex and overwhelming. Our goal is to provide some general information about child custody in Texas and to answer some common questions that our clients have.
What is Child Custody?
In Texas, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship.” There are two types of conservatorships: (1) joint managing conservatorship and (2) sole managing conservatorship. A joint managing conservator is a parent who shares the rights and duties of parenting with the other parent. This is commonly referred to as joint custody.
A sole managing conservator is a parent who has the exclusive right to make certain decisions about the child, and who has the primary residence of the child. This is commonly referred to as sole custody.
What Are the Duties of a Conservator?
The duties of a conservator are set forth in the Texas Family Code. Generally speaking, a conservator has the right to determine the primary residence of the child, to consent to medical and psychological treatment for the child, to receive information from the child’s school, and to make decisions about the child’s education. A conservator also has the duty to support the child financially.
How is Conservatorship Decided in Texas?
The court will always make conservatorship decisions based on the best interests of the child. In making a determination about what is in the best interests of the child, the court will consider a number of factors, including:
- Wishes of the child’s parents
- Wishes of the child, if the child is 12 years of age or older
- The child’s interactions and interrelationships with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- Mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- Any history of domestic violence or child abuse
- If the conservator has been convicted of a crime involving family violence
- If there is any evidence of substance abuse by any party
- Any other factor the courts deem relevant.
What if the Parents Cannot Agree on the Custody of Children?
When parents have difficulties agreeing, then mediation is the next logical step. Family mediation often occurs during a divorce case, but it’s also common for parents who have never been married and are trying to settle custody disputes. The mediator acts as a neutral third party who has the child’s best interests in mind.
If the parents cannot reach an agreement, family court will appoint one or both parents as conservators. The court may also appoint a third party, such as a grandparent, as a conservator. The court will always make its decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.
What is Possession and Access?
Possession and access is essentially the schedule that the court orders for when each parent will have physical possession (physical custody) of the child. The standard possession order in Texas provides that the non-custodial parent will have possession of the child on alternating weekends, from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday, and on Thursdays during the school year from 6 p.
What is Child Support?
Child support is the financial contribution that each parent makes to support the child. In Texas, child support is calculated using a formula known as the “guidelines.” The guidelines take into account the incomes of both parents, the number of children, and whether either parent has other children from a previous relationship. The court will always order child support in an amount that is in the best interests of the child.
Modification of Child Custody Cases
As life situations change for the parents and the child or children, there may be instances where you need to legally modify your custody and support arrangements. When parents request a change of custody, it is still advised that you speak with a child custody lawyer. They are able to offer legal advice and guidance regarding the process.
Even if the mother and father both agree to the changing child arrangements, it is a good idea to have something in writing and approved by a judge in order to prevent complications down the road. However, your case may need to meet certain requirements before you’re able to modify the court order.
You Don’t Have to Tackle Child Custody Alone – A Custody Attorney Can Help
It’s your responsibility as a parent to care for your child. However, parental responsibility doesn’t end there. In addition to caring for your child, you must protect their best interests in the present and the future. Often that includes working with your former partner to create shared parenting plans. However, this process isn’t always easy, especially for those dealing with the recent sting of separation or divorce.
Child custody lawyers allow you to focus on your child or children while they and their team work to navigate the complexities of family law to reach a decision in your child or children’s best interests when it comes to joint or full custody, visitation, child maintenance or support and any other specific issues applicable to your situation. Reach out to a family lawyer or a law firm experienced in matters of child custody.