When the parents of a minor child decide to end their marriage, or were never married at all, custody and visitation arrangements for the child must be made. Ideally, the parents are able to reach an agreement outside of the court, thereby avoiding costly and time consuming litigation. If, however, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will have to intervene. If you are concerned that you and your child’s other parent will be unable to reach an agreement without the court’s intervention you undoubtedly want to know how the judge will decide custody issues in Texas. Although every situation is unique, there are some common factors a court will typically consider when making custody decisions in the State of Texas.
In the State of Texas, “custody” of a minor child is actually referred to as “conservatorship.” Just as other states recognize two types of custody (physical and legal), Texas also acknowledges the role of “managing” conservator and the role of “possessory” conservator. These titles roughly correspond to the concepts of legal and physical custody, respectively. A managing conservator makes important decisions regarding the child such as what school the child will attend or what medical treatment the child will receive. A possessory conservator has no decision making authority but has access to the child. A parent can be the sole managing conservator or both parents may share the role as joint managing conservators.
If a court must decide custody issues in Texas the court uses a “best interest of the child” standard. As the term implies, this simply means that the court will take all relevant factors into consideration and do what it believes is in the child’s best interest. While the court will start with the presumption that joint legal custody, or joint managing conservatorship, it best for the child, that presumption can be overcome if evidence indicates to the contrary. Likewise, the court will start with the presumption that both parents should spend time with the child, or have possessory access to the child, that presumption can also be overcome. Factors the court will consider when making custody decisions include, but are not limited to, the following:
The relationship between each parent and child
The health, safety, and welfare of the child
The stability of each parent
The health of each parent
Each parent’s ability to care for the child financially
Where the child has been living
How close the parents live to each other
Whether the parents are able to cooperate with each other
The child’s physical and emotional needs
Any history of child abuse or neglect
Any history of domestic violence
If you have additional questions about how custody issues are resolved, or about divorce in general, contact the Fort Worth, Texas Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.