Child custody cases: If you find yourself involved in such a case, it can blindside you emotionally and with an overwhelming amount of new information thrown at you. It is something that no parent ever wants to imagine themselves being involved in.
Sadly, these cases are more common in the United States than you might think. Over 36% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. About 25% of the children in the United States live only with one parent.
In these situations, you need to know the parents’ rights in your state. Every state has different rules, but most are usually not far apart.
Nevertheless, this is a situation that you need to be prepared for if you are facing separation. Custody matters require the right legal team, the right amount of research, the right amount of knowledge, and the correct legal maneuvering.
So, what do you need to know about divorces involving child custody in Texas? This is your guide.
What Is Child Custody?
Before diving into the parents’ responsibilities in child custody cases in Texas, you must first understand what child custody is.
Simply put, child custody is an agreement or order between both parents describing who has parental rights to their child or children. In Texas, the proper term is ‘conservatorship.’
There are a few different ways that child custody or conservatorship can be decided. One parent can be awarded sole managing conservatorship, with the other parent having only visitation or possessory rights; or, both parents can be awarded joint managing conservatorship with one parent being named the primary joint managing conservator, or neither parent being named the primary conservator.
How is a decision made as to which type of child custody or conservatorship is awarded to the parents? Let’s go over each of these below.
Sole Managing Conservator
In Texas, sole custody is referred to as sole managing conservator. Whatever you wish to call it, this type of custody not only gives one parent exclusive rights to have the child live with them, but they are also the parent that gets to make all the important decisions for said child.
Now, it is rare for a judge to grant sole custody to a parent because the courts only try to separate parents from making decisions for their children in extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, there are situations where courts are forced to go in this direction for the sake of the child’s well-being.
Domestic violence and physical abuse are the biggest reasons a judge may grant sole custody. This is not unheard of in the United States, considering about 2.3 million people are victims of it every year.
Another reason a judge may grant sole custody is child neglect. This can be a parent failing to take care of the child’s basic needs, such as child safety when having possession time, or just being absent from the child’s life for an extended period.
Addiction can also be a reason why a court may find that a parent is not fit to have custody of a child. This is a much bigger problem in the United States, considering that nearly 20 million people suffer from a substance use disorder.
As stated above, being a sole managing conservator is usually a last resort by the court. Of course, the safety and well-being of the child will be the primary consideration in this type of ruling. If a judge finds that sole managing conservatorhship would benefit the child, the judge will grant it.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the possessory conservator. In Texas, this is defined as the opposite parent of the sole managing conservator. The latter has almost exclusive rights to the child’s physical well-being and to make decisions for said child, but the possessory conservator only has fundamental rights.
This parent still has rights, such as certain visitation times to see a child. However, they will not get to decide what school the child goes to or what town the child resides in. Sometimes, they may not even have the power to stop the other parent from moving the child a certain distance away from them.
In certain situations, both parents can be named the possessory conservator. This typically only happens when neither parent is giving full custody of a child. For example, this can occur if grandparents or another relative in the family is given complete control of the child over a parent.
Joint Managing Conservator
Joint managing conservators are parents who get awarded some or all decision-making rights and responsibilities for their children. This means that they will share some or all of the rights to make essential decisions for the well-being of their child. That can be anything from where they live to where they go to school, and what to do with them medically.
Typically, this would also mean that the parents will split time with their kids equally. That could mean each parent has their child two days per week and alternating weekends, or parents rotating possession every week or two.
Sometimes, parents will agree on which parent can designate the primary residence of a child, if it benefits the kids and themselves. However, the non-primary parent would still be expected to keep their rights on the critical decisions mentioned above, along with some visitation rights.
Standard Possession Order
A Standard Possession Order is when one parent has the right to establish the primary home for the children, and the other parent is limited to visitation rights. This type of order is usually given when parents are unable to agree on where and when their children will visit with each of them.
When this happens, Texas courts like to use the standard possession order once they determine which parent will have the right to designate the child’s primary residence.
So, what goes into these types of arrangements? The specific details of this type of order include the non-primary parent getting visitation rights on Thursdays during the school term; every 1, 3, and 5 weekend; 30 days in the summer; and, significant alternating holidays such as Spring Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Most Texas Family judges favor this type of arrangement over alternating week possession. An argument for this can be that it can give kids more stability instead of making them move regularly.
Likely Result of These Cases
Texas courts will do what they feel is best for the child regarding child custody cases. In the case of a residence disagreement, they will likely try to keep the child in the same home, neighborhood, and school that they were in before the parents separated.
A court would prefer to have a Standard Possession Order type of arrangement unless both parents come up with an agreement before it gets to that point. As far as denying one parent their exclusive parental rights, that will likely only happen if they are a danger to the family or are extremely neglectful of said family.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Regarding a child custody case, you may question if you even need a divorce attorney. The answer is yes, especially if your divorce and child custody case is getting contested.
There are obvious reasons you do not want to go into a custody case alone, the most prominent being that your partner may have a lawyer of their own ready to go against you. If you are representing yourself against a lawyer, it is like an amateur going up against a professional in a field. On top of this, a judge is more likely to take a lawyer’s side.
A divorce attorney has much more experience with these cases and is more likely to be realistic about what you can and cannot get out of it. They could also be the key to getting even more custody rights than you thought possible before speaking to them.
Learn More About Parent’s Rights
These are just some things you should know about child custody and parents’ rights. You need to be aware of the possible outcomes of a case like this and have a plan of attack to get your desired outcome.
Are you ready to devise that plan? Hire a divorce attorney today to get started on your legal strategy.