Child Custody Basics in Texas

Child Custody

Since 2005, the Texas family courts have been requiring that parents include a “Parenting Plan” in their final decree of divorce. The Parenting Plan includes the child custody rights of each parent, the visitation schedule that the parents agreed on, child support, and other child-related matters.

Generally, the Texas courts have the authority to make decisions regarding child custody until the child reaches the age of 18, or until the child graduates high school, whichever happens later. However, it is possible for the court’s jurisdiction to be extended if the child developed a physical or mental disability before his or her 18th birthday, if the child is not able to support themselves.

Will We Have Joint Custody?

When a court handles a divorce proceeding, it also determines who will get custody of the couple’s minor children. The term “custody,” essentially means “which parent gets the children.” In the vast majority of custody cases in Texas, the parents are awarded “joint managing conservatorship,” which means both parents share all rights and duties regarding their children.

However, it is not always in the children’s best interests to award joint managing conservatorship. In every child custody case, the court must evaluate the family’s circumstances and make a custody decision that is in the child’s best interests.

Even if the court does award joint custody, it must select one parent to have the authority to decide where the child’s primary residence will be. This parent is commonly called the “custodial parent” (primary joint managing conservator). The other parent is referred to as the “noncustodial parent.” While the custodial parent decides on the child’s primary residence, the majority of the remaining parenting decisions are made by both parents.

Sole Managing Conservators

“What about sole custody?” In Texas, if a parent is awarded sole custody, they are called the “sole managing conservator.” This is usually seen in cases of family violence, child abuse, neglect, or when a final protective order has been issued. Bear in mind that if a parent is named the sole managing conservator, it does not mean the other parent loses their right to visit with their child.

We are only scratching the surface in regard to child custody in Texas. Other arrangements include split custody and divided custody. To learn more about child custody as part of a divorce or paternity action or as a post-divorce modification, contact our firm to meet with a Richmond child custody lawyer who can answer all of your questions.

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