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How Does the Court Determine Child Custody in Texas?

Under Texas law, the court is required to make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. The courts encourage parents to try and come to agreements using mediation first. Only if they are unable to resolve issues on their own will a family court Judge step in.

Texas courts presume that it is in the best interests of the child for parents to share custody. However, duties do not need to be shared equally. Parents are required to decide on a parenting plan that meets the needs of their children.

Family law matters involving children often entail a lot of emotion and it may feel like it’ll be impossible to mediate the situation with your ex-spouse. However, many people are surprised by what they can achieve with our help.

At Skillern Firm, our goal is to help our clients through family law matters in a way that best protects the children involved. We will use mediation where possible and will always be prepared to represent our clients in court if necessary.

Contact Skillern Firm Today

At Skillern Firm, we are uniquely prepared to handle even the most complex child custody issues. We represent clients navigating through family law matters in Texas on a daily basis and have a long history of favorable outcomes to draw upon.

We take a personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship. We’ll take the time to inform you about your rights, keep you informed, and learn what’s important to you so that we can represent your interests.

Whether you need a skilled mediator to help you and your ex-spouse formulate a parenting plan or a fierce litigator to represent you in court, we can help.

To arrange an initial consultation with a skilled Houston child custody lawyer, call today at 936-213-8479.

Different Types of Custody Arrangements in Texas

The Texas Family Code primarily recognizes two types of custody, sole custody, and joint custody. Unless one parent poses a risk to the child’s well-being, joint custody is the most likely outcome. However, joint custody rarely equates to a 50/50 split.

Joint Custody

It is presumed to be in the best interest of the child for both parents to share custody, which includes sharing rights and duties. Parental rights include the right to make important decisions for the child, such as where they go to school and what medical care they receive. Parental duties include childcare and the financial cost of bringing up a child.

A joint custody arrangement can sometimes be a 50/50 split. However, this is often not very practical. More likely, one parent will have primary physical custody, and the child will live with them for the majority of the time. The other parent will have visitation rights, which could mean caring for the child every other weekend and one weekday evening.

Sole Custody

If one parent poses a risk to the child, for example, if they have a history of drug misuse, child abuse, or domestic violence, then the other parent could be awarded sole custody.

In a sole custody order, only one parent will have rights and duties toward the child. Even when this is the case, the other parent can still be awarded supervised visitation.

Winning sole custody of a child is not easy; you will need to provide the court with substantial evidence to prove, without a reasonable doubt, that the other parent poses a risk to your child. An attorney can help make sure that the right decision is made.

Benefits of Negotiation and Mediation

A family law attorney from Skillern Firm can help you and your ex-spouse formulate a parenting plan using mediation and negotiation. There are many benefits to this, including:

  • Saving Time – Every contested issue in a divorce requires its own court hearing. Waiting for your Judge to be available for each issue is time-consuming.
  • Protecting Children – When parents cannot get along, it often has a negative impact on children. Mediation can help parents to maintain an amicable relationship which benefits everybody.
  • Personalized Arrangements – Using mediation, you can arrive at a parenting plan that meets everyone’s needs and takes into account each parent’s work schedule and the child’s education and extracurricular activities.

When parents arrive at a parenting plan, it will need to be approved by a Judge. Your attorney will help ensure that your parenting plan is in line with Texas family law and is likely to be approved by the Judge overseeing your case.

What is a Texas Child Custody Trial?

If parents cannot come to an agreement using mediation, then the court will step in to make a decision on the parent’s behalf.

A trial is a formal legal proceeding in a courtroom, where parties may testify under oath; there may also be witnesses and exhibits (documents) to support each party’s case for custody.

Prior to the actual trial, the court will have a pre-trial conference which will determine what documents will be presented at trial, when the trial will be, and what witnesses will be present.

It is important that your child custody attorney is prepared to represent you in court if necessary. They will ensure that your rights and interests are protected, as well as your child’s.

What Will The Court Consider When Determining Child Custody in Texas?

If you arrive at a parenting plan using mediation, then the court will need to approve your decisions. If you cannot come to an agreement, then the court will step in to make decisions on your behalf.

Either way, decisions need to be made that are in the best interest of the child. To determine what that is, the Judge may consider factors such as:

  • Previous involvement from each parent
  • Which parent can best meet the child’s emotional and physical needs
  • Potential danger to the child from either parent
  • How stable each parent is
  • The Child’s Wishes
  • Family and community proximity

Previous Involvement From Each Parent

The Judge will consider each parent’s involvement and relationship with the child. Courts cannot make decisions based on gender alone, which means that stereotypical views of the mother having the strongest parent-child relationship should not be a factor.

Instead, the court will consider the involvement of each parent in the child’s life, such as who attends school events and arranges doctors’ appointments. The court will try to keep stability in a child’s life where possible, so if one parent has been heavily involved in the child’s life up until this point, then the court may want to keep it that way.

Which Parent Can Best Meet the Child’s Emotional and Physical Needs?

The courts will also consider each parent’s ability to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs, both now and in the future. That could include considerations such as the ability to provide a stable home environment and spend time with their child.

The court expects to see that parents are capable and willing to put their child’s needs ahead of their own.

Potential Danger to Child from Either Parent

If there is any potential danger to the child from either parent, then this will be an important consideration when determining child custody. If either parent has a history of substance misuse or violent or abusive behavior, then they may lose their parental rights.

If you are concerned about the impact your ex-spouse could have on your child, then it is essential you speak with a child custody attorney. They will help you provide evidence for your claims so that the Judge is made aware of your experiences.

Alternatively, if you have a history that looks like this but have turned your life around and still want access to your children, then we can help. We will help you provide evidence of the changes you have made to show the Judge why you are not a risk to your child.

How Stable Each Parent is

Another important consideration is how stable each parent is. Such as whether they have a steady job, a stable home or the available time that allows them to meet their child’s needs. This is a big factor that the court will definitely consider.

The Child’s Wishes

If a child is 12 or older, then they may choose to sign an affidavit stating whether they have a preference for living with one parent or the other. While the Judge may consider the child’s preference, they are not obligated to follow a child’s wishes and will ultimately make decisions based on what they believe to be in the child’s best interest.

Family and Community Proximity

When a child grows up within a close community, such as close family members, or churchgoers, then the court may prefer to keep the child close to them to minimize disruption to their life. If only one of the parents plans on living in or near that community, it could lead to that parent within that community getting favorable consideration.

Child Support

Many assume that the custodial parent is guaranteed child support from the other parent, however, that is not always the case. In Texas, both parents are required to contribute financially to the upbringing of their children. That usually does mean that the custodial parent will be paid child support from the other unless the custodial parent earns significantly more. 

How Does the Court Determine Child Custody in Texas FAQ

Which Parent Is More Likely to Be Awarded Custody in Texas?

In Texas, courts cannot make biased decisions about the mother or father. The most likely outcome of a child custody trial is a joint custody arrangement.

What is Considered an Unstable Home for a Child?

An unstable home can mean many things, and a Judge will look at each case individually. However, some examples could include:

  • Financial instability due to significant debt or unemployment
  • An inability to maintain a safe standard of living with shelter, food, and access to medical care
  • Emotional instability due to neglect, anger, fear or anxiety
  • Parents who work demanding jobs and don’t have much time to spend with their child.
  • Social instability through the neglect of tasks around the home
  • Physical instability through being unable to provide a safe and supportive home. The hours may be in ill repair or not have water, electricity, or sewer disposal
  • Physical instability due to the child being exposed to third parties who pose a risk to the child or creates a threatening environment

What if My Ex-Spouse Tries to Alienate Me?

Sometimes one parent will intentionally or unintentionally alienate the other parent by speaking badly of them to their child. The court will not look favorably on this. If you are concerned that your ex-spouse is alienating you, then you should contact a family law attorney who can help provide evidence for your claims and protect your parental rights.

Can I Refuse Visitation if Child Support is Not Paid?

Child support and visitation are separate issues, you cannot refuse visitation due to missed payments. If you do, you could be guilty of contempt. However, child support payments do not disappear and if your ex-spouse has missed payments, then you should contact a law firm that can advise you about your next steps.

What Are Temporary Child Support Orders?

Child custody orders can take a long time to finalize. In the meantime, parents often need guidance on deciding who cares for the children and when. Parents can therefore apply for temporary orders, or a Judge may issue them on the parent’s behalf.

Temporary orders provide a temporary child custody arrangement while the divorce or child custody agreement is finalized. Although temporary orders are not permanent, it is important to take them seriously as it could influence the Judge’s final decision. Therefore you should secure representation early.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney From Skillern Firm Today

At Skillern Firm, we understand how important the decisions made in child custody arrangements are to our clients. We provide comprehensive legal representation and will work tirelessly to secure the best outcome for you and your family.

Give us a call today at 936-213-8479 and speak to an experienced family law attorney.