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Specialty tag(s): Parenting Schedules, Child Custody, Divorce

Understanding Child Custody Laws in Texas

Rachel Rizzieri Feist | November 20, 2023

mom giving toddler daughter a kiss on the cheek

In Texas divorce law, child custody can often be a complicated subject. While each parent wants the best for their children, they may have opposing viewpoints on what that means. Each parent often believes that the child would be better cared for under his or her supervision, which can lead to conflict. Understanding Texas divorce and child custody laws can help divorcing parents to better prepare for what’s to come and anticipate how a court may rule on child custody.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Texas?

Courts are allowed a great deal of discretion when determining child custody. Texas divorce custody laws evaluate the ability of each parent to care for the child by looking at their respective finances, employment, travel/work hours that may keep them from the child, and several other aspects of their lives. However, the child’s best interests are ultimately the most important consideration under Texas divorce and custody laws.

The court will closely examine several factors including the following:

  • The stability of a home;
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is 12 or older;
  • Each parent’s plan for raising the child;
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child, both current and future;
  • Programs or systems available to assist the parent in caring for the child;
  • Any previous actions or inactions by a parent that may point to them being unfit; and
  • Each parent’s overall parenting ability.

In addition to these factors, most Texas divorce and child custody courts will also require parents to take a mandatory parenting class before granting the divorce, unless the parties are given a waiver by the court. The purpose of such a course is to ensure that both parents and children are prepared to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with raising children following a separation.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

Custody, or conservatorship as it’s known in Texas divorce and custody laws, can be legal or physical. Legal custody is called a managing conservatorship. It pertains to a parent’s right to decide how a child is raised. These decisions can include religion, where the child goes to school, what medical care they receive, and more. Physical custody, on the other hand, is called a possessory conservatorship. This conservatorship allows the parent to visit and spend time with the child but does not grant them the right to make legal decisions.

Types of Child Custody in Texas

Under Texas divorce and custody laws, the court has a few options to choose from when issuing a custody order. The different types of child custody are:

  • Sole Custody: The child primarily lives with one parent, and that parent has the right to make all of the decisions concerning the child’s upbringing.
  • Joint Custody: The child primarily lives with one parent, but the other parent is still granted visitation rights. Decisions about the child’s upbringing are handled by both parents.
  • Shared Custody: Both parents are granted legal custody, and the child spends at least 35% of the year in each home.
  • Split Custody: If there is more than one child in the family, the court may decide on split custody, in which each parent gets full custody of one or more children.

Texas divorce and child custody laws prefer that parents share custody and responsibilities as much as possible. Equal involvement by the parents in both legal and physical custody often results in the best care for the child. However, joint physical custody is not always a practical option. Many times, the court will issue a joint managing conservatorship in which each parent has a say in the legal decisions of the child’s life, even though the child primarily lives with only one parent. These decisions may include education, medical care, and other facets of the child’s upbringing.

However, joint or shared custody will not be an option when there is evidence of parental misconduct. Parental misconduct can include harmful behaviors such as abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

Visitation Rights

In many situations, Texas divorce and child custody laws still allow the parent who does not receive primary custody to visit and spend time with their child. This commonly takes the form of a standard possession order that outlines the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

The non-custodial parent is usually granted visitation on Thursday nights during the school year and on alternating weekends, most commonly the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. If the parents live 100 miles apart or more, the non-custodial parent may only be entitled to one weekend visitation per month.

Each parent also has the right to spend holidays with their children. Under a standard possession order, parents may use an alternating-year approach, in which the child spends each holiday with one parent one year and the other parent the next. However, the holidays can be highly customized dependent upon the circumstances of the parties and their agreements.

In summer, non-custodial parents are granted at least 30 days of visitation. If the non-custodial parent lives more than 100 miles away, this is increased to 42 days.

Speak With an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer at Goranson Bain Ausley Today

To learn more about Texas divorce law and child custody and get help finding your best path forward, contact the highly skilled and accomplished attorneys at Goranson Bain Ausley. Our offices are located in AustinDallasFort WorthGranbury, and Plano, and we’d be glad to assist you with your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our child custody lawyers.

If you have questions about child custody and would like to learn more about the child custody process, please get in touch with Rachel at 214-225-3449

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Rachel recognizes that divorce and other family law issues can have a lasting impact and helps clients create the best-possible “new normal” for their lives moving forward. With significant experience in all aspects of family law, Rachel is equipped to advocate for her client’s best interests through negotiation, mediation, or litigation.

If you have any questions about child custody or visitation, please contact Dallas Family Lawyer Rachel Rizzieri Feist at Goranson Bain Ausley.  

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