In Texas, the court will make custody decisions based on what is in the “best interest” of the child if the parents can’t come to an agreement. Courts will presume that joint legal custody – called “conservatorship” is best, unless you can prove otherwise.  In deciding which parent should have primary physical custody, the court will consider:

  • The history of contact between the parents and the child
  • The health, safety and welfare of the child
  • The mental and physical health of the parents, and how close they live to each other
  • The preference of a child age 12 or older
  • Evidence of child abuse

Texas laws encourage the parents to work out custody arrangements themselves instead of bringing the matter to court.
After the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk, both parents are bound by it. If a parent is denied court-ordered access to a child, he or she may bring the issue back before the court. The judge may decide to modify the visitation order and order makeup visitation for the time missed.
In Texas, both parties are appointed joint managing conservators unless it is not in the best interest of the child or children. The parent who is appointed the primary joint managing conservator and whom the children will live with is the parent who has the responsibility for making day-to- day decisions. The other parent is also called a joint managing conservator and he or she will have visitation rights and will pay child support. The decisions for the children’s education, religion, and nonemergency medical care can be shared by the parents.

Custody and visitation rights are an important part of divorce agreements or other Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCRs) brought separate from divorce. Each parent wants to ensure they continue to have access and visitation with their child after a separation. Texas courts agree that both parents should play a role in a child’s life, but outside circumstances may limit custody and visitation rights.

Child Custody in Texas

Under the Texas Family Code, child custody is classified into “conservatorships.” Parents typically have joint managing conservatorship with respect to their children, although in some situations, a court may decide that a sole managing conservator is necessary. Depending on the status of the conservatorship, parents will have the ability to retain custody of their children on certain weeks, weekends, holidays, and other important events.

Visitation

In addition to custody arrangements, an agreement will also contain regulations for visitation rights. The Texas Family Code provides guidance on how to structure a visitation schedule if parents can come to a mutual agreement on their own. The Code allows for parents to have access to children every other weekend and specific days throughout the year, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, and other holidays. While this may be confusing to start with (summer vacations are specifically outlined), it becomes routine after a few months. Parents can additionally come to their own terms instead of relying solely on the Code or a court order. A Texas court will base its recommendations on the Texas Family Code, and therefore will be quite strict in the visitation schedule. If you are able to come to amicable terms with the other party, the visitation schedule can be much more fluid.

Visitation schedules can additionally include daily visits if the parents live in the same city. Many parents work out a school drop-off/pick-up schedule which allows the other parent to see the child on a daily basis. Visitation schedules can additionally include provisions for technological face-to-face communications, such as through Skype or Facetime. This allows parents to have a set schedule when they can communicate with their child and allows them to see their child on a daily basis.

If you are in the midst of a child custody dispute, do not hesitate to contact Attorney Ned Gill III, an experienced family law attorney. Custody agreements can lead to the inability to visit your children if the court agreement is improperly handled. Attorney Ned Gill will carefully examine your case and fight for your rights to custody and visitation. Children grow up so fast, and denying you the ability to see them on a regular basis can drastically affect your parent-child relationship, as well as result in many missed important life events.