When navigating the waters of child custody in Texas, parents often find themselves in a sea of legal jargon and complex procedures. It’s a journey that can be emotional, but knowing the key points of this state’s custody laws can serve as a compass to guide you through.
In Texas, the term “custody” isn’t used in the legal sense. Instead, you’ll hear about “conservatorship.” This is the legal word for the rights and responsibilities of parents. There are two types: managing conservatorship and possessory conservatorship. Joint managing conservatorship is the norm, reflecting the state’s stance that having both parents involved is in the best interest of the child, barring any significant issues.
1. The best interest of the child is the operating rule
The “best interest of the child” is the standard that guides all custody decisions in Texas. Every ruling, from living arrangements to visitation schedules, is made with the child’s emotional and physical well-being in mind. Factors like the child’s wishes, each parent’s ability to provide for the child and the health and safety of the child’s environment all come into play.
2. Parenting plans help set the stage for cooperation
Parents are encouraged to create a parenting plan outlining how they’ll share responsibilities. This plan can include details about education, healthcare, and living arrangements. If parents can’t agree, the court steps in and establishes the plan that serves the best interest of the child.
3. Relocation restrictions are important to understand
Texas custody orders often include geographic restrictions to maintain the child’s stability and keep both parents involved. This means a primary conservator may have limits on where they can move with the child, usually within a particular area, to not disrupt the child’s routine and access to both parents.
4. Visitation rights help maintain parent-child relationships
The standard possession order in Texas outlines a visitation schedule in the child’s best interest. It covers weekends, holidays and summers but can be adjusted. Even if a parent doesn’t have custody, they have the right to spend time with their child — because maintaining relationships is essential for their well-being.
5. Modifications are possible when needs change
Life is full of changes, and custody arrangements can change, too. If a significant shift in circumstances happens, either parent can request a custody modification. Whether it’s a job loss, a move, or a change in the child’s needs, the court will consider if a new arrangement would better serve the child’s best interest. Working with someone familiar with Texas laws is beneficial in these cases.