What Are the Child Custody Laws in Texas?

What Are the Child Custody Laws in Texas?

December 26, 2018

Texas, like every other state in the United States, primarily employs the “best interest” standard in child custody cases. This means that, more than any other factor, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child when making custody-related decisions.

There are several options available to judges in family courts when issuing custody orders. The judge can award sole custody to one parent, meaning the child will live primarily with that parent, and that parent then has the exclusive right to make decisions about that child’s upbringing.

In the vast majority of cases, however, the court favors joint custody arrangements, as the law believes it to be in the child’s best interest to have meaningful, significant relationships with each parent. A child may live with just one parent in a joint custody arrangement, but the other parent could have significant visitation time (if not shared physical custody) while also still maintaining a role in making important decisions on the child’s behalf in areas such as education, religion and healthcare.

Here are a few other stipulations and issues covered under child custody laws in Texas:

  • Parenting classes: Texas courts require every divorcing parent with a minor child to go through a parenting class before the divorce can be finalized. This class is set up to help parents and children alike deal with the emotional trauma associated with a separation and divorce. This requirement can be fulfilled online.
  • Custody definitions: There is a distinction between legal and physical custody that is important to note. Legal custody refers to each parent’s right to raise the child and make decisions on his or her behalf regarding day-to-day parenting issues. Physical custody refers to who has possession of the child, or the type of shared possession arrangement the parents have in place.
  • Other factors: The best interest of the child is, as we already stated, the most important factor to consider in child custody arrangements, but it is not the only factor Texas courts will use when devising these arrangements. Other factors include the current or future emotional and physical needs of the child, any current or future potential emotional or physical danger the child would face, each parent’s demonstrated parenting ability, the programs available to assist each parent, the stability of the proposed home, the plans for the child by each parent and, in some cases, the wishes of the child (if the child is old enough to have a reasonably informed opinion).
  • Third party custody: In some cases, someone other than the biological parents of the child may attempt to gain custody of the child. If one or more of the parents is deceased, then the closest living relative does have the right to file a custody suit, as can a person in whose physical possession the child has been for at least six months. Grandparents have first legal priority to the grandchildren if both parents are deceased.

For more information about Texas’s child custody laws, contact a divorce lawyer in Lubbock, TX at the Law Office of Rob Biggers.

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