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Child Custody in Texas: An Overview for Parents

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Not every marriage lasts a lifetime. Just ask the over 780,000 couples that divorce every year.

While divorce seems like a two-sided affair, the kids take center stage in most divorce hearings. Deciding who gets the kids and when a couple separate is one of the most difficult decisions both parties and the court have to make.

While some couples can amicably agree on who gets the kids, others fail to reach an agreement regarding the children. Such couples might require the court’s intervention to iron out the issues. Knowing the various types of child custody can prepare you for potential child custody hearings.

This knowledge will prove useful when the court gives the final verdict on who gets to keep the kids. In Texas, the court makes every effort to avoid favoring the mother or the father in child custody proceedings. Instead, it relies heavily on the relationship each parent has with the child.

In rare instances, grandparents may get custody of the child. However, Texas courts tend to lean towards natural parents as the affected child’s primary custodian. Keep reading as we explore the various types of child custody to better prepare you for any upcoming child custody proceedings.

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is a legal term that denotes the control and care of a child courts award to a parent after a divorce. The custodian is the parent that gets to take custody of the child. In Texas, courts refer to child custody as conservatorship.

The decision on who gets the child depends on the law of the state in question. As mentioned earlier, Texas law primarily considers the relationship between the child and the parents. Other states consider factors like the financial capability of the parent, the child’s education, among other factors.

Types of Child Custody

There are various types of child custody that a court can award to a parent after a court hearing. All types of child custody break down into two categories: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to who the child will primarily live with after the split. The court can grant both parents physical custody or award custody to just one.

With legal custody, the child’s custodian has the legal right to make crucial decisions concerning the child’s life up to adulthood. This doesn’t mean that the child must live with the parent.

1. Temporary Child Custody

Temporary child custody isn’t official child custody as per Texas law. It instead refers to the parent taking care of the child before and during the child custody proceedings. You can think of it as short-lived “de facto” child custody.

Before you start a formal child custody hearing, you must first file for temporary custody. The decision on who gets temporary child custody is based on the child’s “best interest.” Temporary child custody isn’t a conclusive decision on who gets child custody, but it can weigh heavily on the courts final decision. This is because most courts, and family law judges, try to avoid major disruptions in a child’s day-to-day life. Therefore, if the temporary child custody arrangement seems to work well for the child, a judge may be hard pressed to change that circumstance. Having a skilled family law attorney representing you is important if you are looking to change the temporary child custody orders.

2. Sole Custody

With sole custody, the court decides which parent will take full custody of the child. The court awards both physical and legal custody to the sole custodian. If the court awards sole custody, the custodian can make decisions on:

  • Where the child will live after the divorce
  • Where the child will attend school
  • The child’s health and dental care, including mental health treatments
  • What extracurricular activities the child will participate in

To keep it simple, sole custody is where the court picks a single parent to be the child’s caretaker. The child will live with the custodian after the sole custodian award.

3. Joint Custody

In joint custody, both parents share parental responsibility for the good of the child. However, sometimes one parent may get legal custody of the child as long as it’s in the minor’s best interest.

Alternatively, the court may specify particular responsibilities for each parent and even the joint ones. In fact, courts in Texas prefer joint custody arrangements so that the child can maintain meaningful relationships with both parents.

Unlike sole custody, joint custody takes extra effort by both parents to work together. For instance, it may not clearly define who gets possession of the child, who gets to live with the child, and who gets to visit. The couple may need a subsequent proceeding now as a standard possession order to iron out the matter.

With that in mind, there are two categories of joint custody:

  • Joint legal custody: Both parents contribute to the child’s upbringing, but the child lives with one parent. Here, parents only share legal custody but not physical custody.
  • Shared physical custody: The child will divide living in both parent’s residence. The child must spend at least 35% of the year with the other parent.

You can arrange for a special type of joint custody if it’s necessary. This can be a combination of both joint legal and shared physical custody. As long as it’s within the limits of child custody laws, such an arrangement is possible.

4. Split Custody

As the name suggests, split custody is where parents split custody between their children but not like joint custody. In split custody, one parent takes custody of one child while the other parent takes custody of the other child. The custody of the children is basically split, with each parent bearing responsibility for one child.

What About Child Support?

In Texas, most courts require the non-custodial parent to pay child support. Child support is required until the child is eighteen.

In some cases, child support may extend beyond 18 years, for instance, if the child is disabled. The court will outline the duration of the child support payment.

Types of Child Custody Explained

Most parents want what is best for their children. Even in the most contentious divorces, it’s important that both sides keep the child’s best interest at heart. Child custody in Texas can be a pretty sensitive topic, but knowing about the types of child custody helps prepare you for the court proceedings. However, remember the court’s ultimate decision is based on the child’s best interest.

If you are considering divorce or already in the midst of a divorce, it’s important to get experienced compassionate legal guidance. A skilled family law attorney will work towards a future path that works for everyone, including you and your children. We specialize in helping families navigate the divorce process and move past this difficult time. For legal help and representation on child custody matters, contact us today.

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