Are You Involved in a Child Custody Case?
Looney & Conrad
Texas Child Custody Laws
In custody disputes, the courts in Texas focus on the best interests of the child. While parents have rights under Texas law, the needs and rights of the child will always be the primary consideration of the court.
According to the Texas Family Code, there is a presumption that appointment of the parents as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child. This presumption can be rebutted by a finding of a history of family violence involving one, or both, of the parents. Because the best interest of the child is of primary concern of the courts, it is the public policy of the State of Texas to:
- Assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
- Provide a safe, stable, and non-violent environment for the child; and
- Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
A parent who is considering a custody dispute should keep these three concepts in mind. A solid case requires a showing that giving the petitioning parent custody is in the best interests of the child. Giving consideration to the children will also play a determining role in other areas, at least until custody has been determined including:
- Where a person lives - it might be tempting to move as far away from a former spouse as possible, but this is rarely going to be in the best interests of the children
- How a person handles stress – a person might desire the presence of the child or children to help get through the trauma of the family breakdown; however children are not equipped to deal with the range of emotions experienced by an adult. When a person shares their personal difficulties with a child, not only is it not helpful, it may be considered by the court as a form of abuse
- A person should be cautious in their comments about the Ex – parents preparing for custody cases in Texas need to remember the damage that can be done by making negative comments about their former partners in front of the children. Generally, these comments make a child feel bad about himself or herself
Such behavior damages children as well as parents, and may be taken into consideration by the court, where a noticeable failure in self-control may be seen as an indicator of an inability to parent.
Filing for Child Custody in Texas
Parents can file a custody case in Texas if:
- The child resides in the state or the child resided in the state 6 months before the custody case was filed;
- The child's parents have a connection with Texas besides physically living there, such as a job; or
- Evidence is available in the state concerning the child's care, education, etc.
A parent in Texas who wishes to commence a child custody case should provide their lawyer with the following information:
- Child's address;
- Place where child has lived for the past 5 years; and
- Names and addresses of individuals whom the child has lived with for the past 5 years, along with the names and addresses of those who have claimed physical and/or legal custody of the child for the past 5 years.
Modifying Child Custody in Texas
A Texas court can modify a child custody order, if:
- The court has the power to make an initial child custody determination (see the section above entitled, Filing a Custody Case in Texas);
- No other state court has the power to decide the case; and
- The court determines that the child's parents do not live in another state.
Conservatorship and Child Custody in Texas
Instead of referring to a parent's guardian as a "custodian," a Texas court refers to a child's custodian as a conservator. A court will give one parent sole custody of a child (sole managing conservator) or both parents joint custody (joint managing conservatorship).
The court considers the following factors in determining whether one or both parents will serve as a conservator:
- Best interests of the child;
- History of domestic violence; and
- Child's testimony (over the age of 12).
A conservator, in Texas, has the right to:
- Inquire and participate in the child's health, education, after school activities, etc.;
- Attend school activities;
- Be designated as an emergency contact on the child's school forms; and
- Make decisions regarding the child's education, health or legal needs.
Texas child custody laws encourage parents to work together to provide the most stable home for a child. Parents who have questions about child custody in Texas should speak with a Texas attorney or research the Texas Family Court Act.
Contact Looney & Conrad, P.C. at 281-597-8818.
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918 Austin Street Hempstead, Texas 77445