When establishing child custody orders, a judge’s goal is to determine what custody situation is in the best interests of the child.
There are two categories of child custody under Texas law: conservatorship and possession/access. Conservatorship includes the right to make medical, educational, extra-curricular religious and other decisions for the child. Possession and access refers to which parent lives with the child and the frequency of the other parent’s visitation with the child.
The court may award custody to one parent alone (sole conservator) or both parents together (joint conservators). If the parents are joint conservators, they must make conservator decisions together. The court’s goal is to provide the child with active involvement by both parents, and it encourages the parents to work together to provide a stable home for the child.
The court will consider various factors when deciding what is in the best interest of a child, including the child’s emotional and physical needs, each parent’s ability to raise the children, the stability of each parent’s home, and each parent’s future plans for the child. The court may also consider past or potential harm or abuse to the child by one or both of the parents, as well as any evidence that suggests the an improper relationship between a parent and child.
If the child is over age 12, the court may consider the child’s preference and accept testimony about where the child wants to live. Additional factors the court may look at are each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent, the child’s adjustment to school and community, and the child’s relationships with siblings and other family members.
The court encourages parents to work together to create a custody and visitation plan before the judge has a conservatorship (custody) hearing. A parenting plan should detail which parent the child will live with during the week, on weekends, holidays, and school breaks. The noncustodial parent should have a significant amount of visitation with the child. The judge will likely adopt the parents’ plan if it is in the child’s best interests. If the court sees that the parents are cooperating, the judge is more likely to work with the parents to make sure the schedule works for everyone.
Once a custody and visitation order is in place, it generally cannot be modified unless both parents agree to modify it, or there is a significant change in circumstances for the parents or the child.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Call the number at the top of the page or click this link to e-mail us: