When parents divorce or separate, one of the primary concerns is who will have custody of their child. Your child is the most important thing in your life, and the idea of being apart from him or her can be incredibly distressing. While many people choose to stay in bad marriages or relationships in order to avoid this issue, this is often not a feasible, long-term solution.
Parental Rights: Custody & Visitation
When you and the other parent of your child decide to separate, it is important to remember that both parents have certain legal rights regarding their children. Texas courts do not automatically award custody to either parent; instead, the court will consider the various circumstances and factors involved and award custody in a way that serves the best interests of the child.
Of course, the child’s “best interests” in this instance are determined by the court, not the parents. Parents who wish to form a custody agreement based on their unique situation may pursue mediation or collaborative divorce, though this is not possible for everyone.
Understanding Texas Child Custody Laws
In Texas, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship.” Rather than “custodians,” custodial parents are called “conservators.”
There are two forms of conservatorship: joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship. Generally, the court operates under the assumption that a joint managing conservatorship is in the best interests of the child. This allows the child to spend time with both parents and allows both parents to make certain decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and medical treatment.
In a joint managing conservatorship, the court will determine the different rights and responsibilities of each parent. These may include:
- Consenting to medical treatment for the child, including emergency medical care
- Providing information to the other parent regarding the health or welfare of the child
- Accessing the child’s medical, dental, psychological, or educational records
- Talking to teachers, doctors, psychologists, and other professionals about the child
- Attending the child’s school and/or extracurricular events and activities
- Receiving child support payments from the other parent
- Being listed on the child’s emergency contact forms as the primary contact
It is important to note that, in some cases, the court may award certain rights and responsibilities to just one parent. Additionally, issues of primary residence and visitation/access will be decided in a separate process known as the standard possession order.
The visitation schedule typically follows the status quo. In other words, if one parent stayed at home with the child during the marriage, he or she will likely be awarded primary possession of the child unless there are extenuating circumstances. If two parents are not able to agree on a visitation schedule, then the judge will use standard guidelines to create one for them.
What Is Sole Managing Conservatorship & When Is It Awarded?
Though it is somewhat rarer than joint managing conservatorship, sole managing conservatorship may be awarded to one parent.
In contrast to joint managing conservatorship, sole managing conservatorship grants the right to make decisions on behalf of the child to just one parent. This includes decisions like where the child will live, what school he or she will attend, what medical treatment he or she will receive, and more.
There are several reasons the court may grant sole managing conservatorship. Some of the most common reasons include when one parent has:
- A history of abusing or neglecting the child
- Been convicted of domestic violence
- A substance abuse problem (including both drugs and alcohol)
- Been diagnosed with a mental disorder
- Not been present in the child’s life
The court may also award sole managing conservatorship if there is a history of extreme conflict between the two parents. In every instance, the court will always rule in favor of the child’s best interests over the interests of either parent.
Reach Out to Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers Today
Are you currently going through a divorce that involves children? It is important that you speak with an experienced child custody lawyer in Texas who has an in-depth understanding of the applicable laws.
At Walters Gilbreath, PLLC, we can help you navigate this complex and often highly emotionally charged process. We understand just how important it is to you that your child is cared for. Because of this, we do everything we can to secure the best possible outcome for our clients. Our team has helped both mothers and fathers with all types of child custody issues, including joint and sole conservatorships, visitation and access, child support, bad facts, and more.
Call our law office at (844) 451-1220 to learn more about how our Texas custody attorneys can help you.