What Factors Do Family Courts Consider for Child Custody in Texas?
Whether they involve divorcing parents or non-married couples, child custody cases pose many unique concerns and considerations. That’s because these matters can be highly emotional dealings, and because they involve minors whose futures hang in the balance. Naturally, family courts have come to assume the role of the “protector” by ensuring children are prioritized in any family law matter in which they’re involved.
What factors do courts consider when determining child custody?
The judge or jury will consider the best interest of the child when determining primary child custody. To determine this, they factor in many things, like age of the child, parents’ living situation, parent relationship with the child, the child’s preference, and which parent has historically been the primary caregiver to the child.
Child Custody in Texas: The Basics
There’s no set or systematic rule for cases involving child custody. Every case is unique, and each custody agreement or dispute requires an individualized assessment – both by the attorneys who represent parties involved, and the family law judge presiding over the case.
Still, there are some important general concepts which apply to all custody matters. The most important to understand is how Texas distinguishes child custody into two categories:
- Conservatorship – Conservatorship refers to parental rights and duties, such as the right to make decisions about where the child will live, a child’s medical care, education, and other major life decisions. Conservatorship may be ordered in the form of Sole Managing Conservatorship, which means only one parent has the right to make important life decisions for their child, or Joint Managing Conservatorship, which is the preferred method of custody in Texas and an arrangement which provides both parents with equal say about decisions regarding their kids.
- Possession and Access – Possession and access refers to structure of visitations with the parents. Parents can come up with just about any arrangement they mutually agreed upon, but the court must still approve it. When parents are unable to agree, disputes may be resolved through statutory possession and access schedules, such as a Standard Possession Order.
Helping clients obtain a child custody arrangement and possession schedule which balances parenting goals with real life obligations is a large part of what our family law attorneys at Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. do for our clients – be they unmarried parents, divorcing spouses, or even non-parents like grandparents, step-parents, and other relatives. That work may involve:
- Helping obtain temporary orders to address child-related matters during a pending case, or protective orders if family violence or abuse is alleged.
- Enforcing a child custody or temporary custody / possession order when a parent does not comply with ordered terms.
- Seeking modifications of custody / possession orders for various reasons and circumstantial changes (i.e. parental relocation, job loss, etc.).
- Exploring available options, creative and practical solutions, and ways to seek favorable custody and visitation resolutions that are in the child’s best interest.
- Out-of-court negotiations with parents who are able to compromise, or mediation to facilitate a resolution or any disagreements.
- Litigation to obtain custody (conservatorship) orders and / or possession schedules when parents cannot agree on their own, or when some pressing or personal matter is involved.
Factors in Child Custody Cases
In any of these situations, family courts will consider certain factors when making their determinations – even if parents have come to agreements on their own. While every case is different, the “best interests of the child” is the primary consideration of the Court in its determination of conservatorship and possession and access. . Under Section 154.004 of the Texas Family Code, the court will consider the child’s “best interests” in regard to any issue or evidence which may arise in a custody case.
A child’s best interests will filter how courts look at various factors in custody cases, including:
- Age of the child and their preference (if they are old and mature enough);
- Emotional and physical needs of the child, including any special needs;
- Nature of child’s relationship with each parent / party seeking custody, and the history of their involvement;
- Ability of parents to cooperate, co-parent, and maintain continuity for the child;
- Each parent’s physical, emotional, and financial health;
- Each parent’s employment, and their availability to the child;
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home and meet their child’s needs;
- Any history or neglect, abuse, violence, or criminal issues that may endanger the child, or require that any visitation, if granted, be supervised; and
- Other factors deemed relevant by the court.
No single factor will be the sole determinant of a final child custody determination. Courts evaluate the totality of cases, in addition to many particular factors and any unique issues of parents or parties involved, to make a final determination.
Questions? Call Proven Texas Family Lawyers.
Texas family courts have a great deal of discretion when making determinations about conservatorship and possession and access, which is why it’s critical to have an experienced lawyer by your side when your custody rights are on the line. Working with a proven attorney can help you evaluate options and strategies, gather needed evidence, and make compelling arguments when required.
Led by a Texas Board of Legal Specialization Board Certified Family Law Specialist (Attorney Lennea Cannon), our family law team is passionate about protecting the rights of parents and non-parents in a range of custody-related matters – from temporary orders, mediation, and litigation to enforcement and modification actions. Our firm also handles matters of stepparent and relative adoptions.
If you have a custody-related family law matter in Houston or the surrounding areas of Texas, call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to request an initial consultation.