texas child custody laws

If you are a parent in Texas with questions about custody over your minor children, it is important to have an understanding of Texas child custody laws.

Dealing with custody matters can be complicated and emotionally draining, but you don’t have to handle them alone.

The family and divorce attorneys at the Stout Law Firm PLLC have the knowledge and experience necessary to guide you through the process. Read on to learn more about child custody laws in Texas and see how we can help. 

Filing for Child Custody in Texas

The first consideration in filing for custody, referred to as “conservatorship” in Texas, is determining if the child has lived in the state for the requisite period of time.

Generally, before filing a new child custody case in Texas, you must first be able to show that Texas is the child’s “home state.” Under Texas Family Code section 152.102(7), this means that the child must have lived in Texas “with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding.” 

Once this is established, you can then fill out the appropriate paperwork to continue the process. Depending on your specific circumstances (e.g., divorce, contested vs. uncontested, etc.), your paperwork may vary.

An experienced attorney in this area of law can help you determine what needs to be completed and guide you through the rest of the process to fight for your rights as a parent and protect the best interest of your child.

Modifying Child Custody Orders

If you have a final order regarding conservatorship over your child, then you might be wondering if that child custody order can or should be modified.

In general, if there has been a material change in circumstances since the last custody order you may be able to seek a modification of that order.

Conservatorship, rights and duties, possession and access, and child support are all modifiable in a final order regarding a child provided you meet the burden to prove those terms should be changed.

Once a determination has been made that circumstances warrant modifying the existing order the next inquiry is where to file the modification proceeding.

In most instances, the court that made the initial custody decision maintains “exclusive continuing jurisdiction” to modify the order and that is the court in which the modification request should be filed.

How Conservatorship Works in Texas

In Texas, “conservatorship” is synonymous with “custody.” Conservatorship essentially describes the rights and duties of the parents involved regarding custody over a child. A person with court-ordered custody of a child is called a “conservator.” 

There are three types of conservators in Texas: joint managing conservator, sole managing conservator, and possessory conservator.

Joint Managing Conservator

Texas law presumes that both parents should be named joint managing conservators over their child as set forth in section 153.131 of the Texas Family Code.

Unless the court finds that it would not be in the best interest of the child to do so, this is the default determination for parents in a child custody proceeding. 

When joint managing conservators are appointed in a case, various rights and duties must be allocated between the parties including but not limited to:

  1. The right to designate a child’s primary residence;
  2. The right to consent to medical, dental and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  3. the right to consent to psychiatric or psychological treatment of the child;
  4. the right to receive and give receipt for child support;
  5. the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  6. the right to consent to marriage and enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  7. the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  8. the right to services and earnings of the child; and
  9. except in some instances, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if action is required by a state, US, or foreign government.

Most of the foregoing rights can be allocated to conservators in one of three ways: a right can be exclusive to one parent, independent to each parent, or joint to both parents.

Sole Managing Conservator

Sometimes, however, it is not feasible for both parents to be named  joint managing conservators over the child.

For example, in cases involving family violence, or abuse or neglect by one parent, it might not be in the child’s best interest for both parents to have the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s care.

In those instances, it may be best for one parent to be named the sole managing conservator over the child with exclusive rights and duties regarding the child’s care as set forth in section 153.132 of the Texas Family Code.

Possessory Conservator

If a person is not named as the sole or joint managing conservator over a child, that individual may still be named in the final order regarding the child and have rights to possession and access to the child as a “possessory conservator” over the child.

This enables that person to have court ordered possession and access to the child in the manner determined by the court to be in the child’s best interest.

Understanding how conservatorship works in Texas will allow you to better understand your potential child custody rights and help you identify goals as you move forward in your case.

How Can a Child Custody Lawyer Help Me? 

Understandably parents often have many questions about child custody in Texas. Some of the most common questions and areas of concern include the following:

  1. What is joint custody vs. sole custody; 
  2. How do courts determine child custody;
  3. How long does it take to decide who gets custody;
  4. How are rights and duties allocated between parties;
  5. What are the most common ways people get custody;
  6. How do grandparents rights work and what rights do grandparents have in relation to a child;
  7. Who will the child live with primarily; and
  8. Where can our child live?

Our team of attorneys has the knowledge and experience necessary to answer your questions and help guide you through the child custody process.

Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers

We are here to help you navigate this difficult time in your life, to gain a better understanding of your legal rights and to fight for you. Contact the attorneys at The Stout Law Firm PLLC to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you today.

Angela Stout

Angela A. Stout was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007. Ms. Stout has practiced law since 2007, with an emphasis in representing clients in family law matters. She earned her Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law in May of 2007. Ms. Stout became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in December of 2015. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is a specialized group of attorneys that must obtain exceptional experience in a specific area of law, pass a comprehensive exam, and complete ongoing continuing legal education in that specialized area. Additionally, Ms. Stout is certified as a mediator by the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center.

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