What do Judges Look at When Deciding Custody in Texas?

mother holding sleeping newborn baby on her chest while they dose.Child custody can be one of the most difficult and emotional aspects of a divorce from your spouse or separation from your partner, no matter your children’s age.

If you are going through a divorce or separation and need advice on child custody, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, and can provide guidance on the best way to proceed with your custody case. In addition, a lawyer can represent you in court and ensure that your interests are protected throughout the legal process.

If you have gone through a divorce or separation and are entering into legal proceedings to determine who gets the children, we are here to help. Here at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, we have the skills and experience necessary to help you get the result you desire.

Find out how we can help your case by contacting us at 832-843-1691 today.

What Is Child Conservatorship And How Is It Decided In Texas?

In Texas, custody is known as conservatorship. The laws governing decisions around it can be found in Title 5, Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.

In the state of Texas, child conservatorship decisions are made by the courts based on what is in the best interests of the child. The law does not provide a specific definition of what constitutes the best interests of the child, but previous court cases have established that judges may consider a variety of factors when making these decisions.

Ultimately, the decision on child conservatorship will be based on the specific facts and circumstances of each case. It is important to keep in mind that the court is not biased towards either parent, and will not automatically assume that one parent is better suited for custody than the other.

The Factors Judges Consider In Child Custody Decisions

As we covered above, there is no set list of considered factors for child custody cases – the main thing that determines the final decision is what is estimated to be in the best interest of the child.

However, there are some factors that are particularly likely to be considered by the judge in a Texas custody battle. These include:

  • The child’s age and health.
  • The age and health of the child’s parents.
  • Whether there are any special needs involved – again, with either the child or their parents.
  • The home environment of each parent.
  • The personal history of each parent, for example, whether they have a criminal record or accusations of abuse.
  • The child’s physical and emotional needs.
  • The ability of the parents to provide for the child.
  • The child’s relationship with each parent, as well as other siblings.
  • Any history of child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse issues, or other issues that could put the child in emotional danger or at risk of physical harm.
  • The amount of time either parent would be able to spend with the child.
  • The child’s education.
  • What level of involvement each parent currently has with the child’s life.
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant.

The court may also consider the child’s wishes, if the child is old enough and the child’s desires are expressed as a preference in a way that is reasoned and articulate.

The Interest Of The Child Should Always Come First

The major decisions in a child custody case are made by attempting to predict the impact on the child’s life. Thus, some of the factors listed in the previous section will be weighed more than others, and things are not always clear-cut, but more likely to vary on a case-by-case basis.

For example, one parent may possess considerably more income than the opposing party. However, if there is evidence this parent does not have adequate time to spend raising their child and their child will be transported away from all other family members and established support systems, there is a good chance that the judge awards custody and primary caretaker privileges to the other parent in order to maintain continuity in that child’s life.

Child Custody Cases In Texas Do Not Use Physical And Legal Custody

Many states divide custody into physical custody and legal custody. However, this is not the case in Texas. Instead, Texas uses the terms possession and access.

In Texas family law, the terms possession and access refer to a parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding their child. Possession refers to a parent’s right to have physical custody of their child and primary residence with main control of the parenting plan, while access refers to a parent’s right to visit with their child and maintain a relationship with them.

The Types Of Possession In Texas Custody Cases

Possession is typically divided into standard possession and extended possession.

Standard possession is the default possession schedule in Texas, and it allows the non-custodial parent to have access to the child on certain weekends, holidays, and during the summer.

Extended possession, on the other hand, is a more flexible schedule that allows for longer periods of time with the child, such as extended summer vacations or long weekends.

The Types Of Access In Texas Custody Cases

Access, on the other hand, refers to a parent’s right to visit with their child and maintain a relationship with them. This may include the right to phone or video call the child, to receive information about the education and healthcare of the child, and to attend school and extracurricular activities.

Access is typically granted to the non-custodial parent, but it may also be granted to other family members or individuals who have a close relationship with the child.

The Types Of Custody Resulting From A Custody Dispute In Texas

If you have custody of your child, this is known legally as managing conservatorship, and there are different forms that it can take.

When going through a custody battle in Texas, it is easy to feel bogged down and overwhelmed by the various terminology. In order to stand the best chance of receiving the legal result that you desire, it helps to understand the legal terminology.

The following sections will explain the technical terms for each type of custody, and what they will mean for the parent’s ability to see their child.

Sole Managing Conservatorship/Sole Custody

If a parent is granted a sole managing conservatorship over their child, that means they have sole custody of the child and are the only parent entitled to make decisions about that child’s life.

This means that their home will be the primary family home, and they will make decisions related to the healthcare, education, and other important factors relating to the day-to-day life of the child in question.

However, this does not mean that the other parent cannot spend time with their child. It is still possible for the other parent to get access to visitation rights, which are usually set forth in an agreed-upon visitation schedule.

Joint Managing Conservatorship/Joint Custody

If the judge designates both parents as joint managing conservators, that means they both are responsible for the decisions in their children’s lives.

Similarly, if the parents are granted joint custody, they will likely both be spending time with the children involved in the case. Depending on whether or not the parents are able to agree, the judge may weigh in to enforce a time split that is in the best interest of the children.

Texas Judges Have A Preference For Allowing Both Parents Access

In Texas, a judge will try to achieve a joint conservatorship if the evidence suggests that it is in the best interests of the children involved. However, it is still possible for one parent to be granted a greater deal of power for deciding key factors related to the child, even in a joint conservatorship.

Similarly, even in custody decisions where the court rules that one of the parents has sole custody, the court will still try to ensure that the other parent has visitation rights to the children.

Texas Judges Should Not Have A Gender Preference For Custody Disputes

Traditionally, there has been a lot of gender bias in court decisions as to which parent custody of kids will be granted to. This was known as the tender years doctrine, and meant that being the mother of the kids was a major factor that influenced the likelihood of being awarded custody.

Thankfully, this outdated practice is now outlawed in legislation. Since the court should rely on evidence alone to make the decision of who is granted custody of the children, they cannot rely on gender bias to make their decisions.

Not Paying Child Support Will Not Impact Rights Of Visitation In Texas

Child support is supposed to be paid to the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent, in order to cover the additional costs of raising the kids for the majority of the time. Some states allow the parents of children to revoke visitation access if the other parent fails to pay the necessary child support.

However, this is not the case in Texas. It is officially enshrined in legislation that a parent granted rights of visitation may not be banned from seeing their children, even if they do not pay the child support fees that they are supposed to.

Contact A Texas Family Attorney Today For Your Child Custody Case

If you are going through a custody dispute over your children, you need the assistance of a lawyer with the skills, legal knowledge, and experience to get the result that you desire. Custody battles can be complex and emotionally draining experiences, and due to their subjective nature, it is vital that you have a lawyer with strong persuasive skills and thorough knowledge of their field.

That is exactly what we offer at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC. Our lawyers have been fighting and winning for clients just like you for years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 832-843-1691 today.