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When Children Are Involved

The end of a relationship with one’s spouse does not mean the end of the relationship between a child and a parent. Texas rules favor arrangements by which both parents continue to play a significant role in the child’s life. Because this necessarily means that the time with the child has to be split among the parents, the parties need to negotiate a proper schedule that satisfies the child and the parents. In Texas, this plan is called a parenting plan.

Texas custody laws are structured around one guiding principle, that is the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child will ultimately determine the possession and access schedule. Because the best interests of a child are similar or comparable, certain standard possession schedules have been developed by legislators, judges, and behavorial psychologists to reduce a child’s impact through divorce of its parents.

In making custody decisions, Texas courts will consider the following factors:

• Age of the child.
• Relationship between the parents and the child (and siblings, if any).
• The capacity and resources to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care and other necessary care.
• The age, physical and mental health, stability, character of the parents.
• The preferences of the child, if the court deems the child physically and mentally mature enough to make such decisions.
• Evidence of abuse or domestic violence.
• Other case specific relevant factors.

Because, when making these determinations, the judge must rely on the statements by the parties inside and outside court room, it is of paramount importance to have experienced lawyers to strengthen your position and to maximize your time with your child.

Child Custody in Texas - Frequently Asked Questions

Possession and access will be decided on a temporary basis in the temporary orders either by agreement or by order of the court. Possession and access will be decided on a permanent basis in either the final decree of divorce or in the order on Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR).
The court will determine possession and access to the child/children based on the best interest of the child.
In determining the best interest of the child, the court will consider evidence relating to a wide array of factors including: physical and emotional needs; physical and emotional danger; stability of home; plans for child; parenting skills; who was the child’s primary caregiver; keeping siblings together; false reports of child abuse; and fitness of each parent (including: abuse; physical force; family violence), the desires of the child.
Visitation (in Texas: “possession and access”) refers to the physical custody of the children or when they can visit with the children. Texas has two statutory possession and access schedules: standard and extended standard.
Standard visitation applies to children over three years of age. The schedule is generally:

• the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and ending 6 p.m. Sunday;
• Friday determines which weekend is the 1st, 3rd, or 5th (not Saturday!);
• Every Thursday night from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.;
• There is also time for summer and holiday provisions that supersede the above described possession periods;
• Summer is 30 days in the summer;
• Thanksgiving and Christmas are generally alternated every year;
• The mother always gets the full weekend that Mother’s day falls on;
• The father always gets the full weekend that Father’s day falls on regardless whether it’s his/her weekend.
• The one week spring vacation is alternated between the parties yearly.

Note that the parents can always modify the schedule by agreement.
For children under 3 years of age there isn’t a set schedule in the Texas Family Code. Each judge has broad authority to determine a schedule that fits the needs of the parents and is in the child’s best interests. A common schedule is Tuesday 6pm to Wednesday 9am, Thursday 6pm to Friday 9am, Saturday 6pm to Sunday 6pm.
Once a child is over the age of 18 and is no longer enrolled in school, then that child is no longer considered a minor for custody purposes and the possession schedule doesn’t apply. They are legally an adult under Texas law.
Yes, the court has broad powers to order any possession schedule if so indicated by the best interest of the child.
If the other party can prove that the children’s emotional or physical well-being is at risk of being harmed, the court can order supervised visitation.
In Texas, a child’s decision cannot be the sole factor in determining which parent the child lives with. However, once the child reaches the age of 12, and upon motion, the court can consider the child’s wishes as to whom he/she wishes to live with.
Conservatorship is basically the rights and duties of the parents (i.e. to make decisions for the child regarding schooling, medical decisions, and psychiatric decisions, among many other things). Conservatorship can be done in different ways, including allowing one parent to make all the decisions (Sole Managing Conservatorship) or allowing both parents to jointly make the decisions (Joint Managing Conservatorship).

By agreement, by a Motion to Confer with Child, and in the occurrence of material and substantial change in the circumstances of either the child, the parent, the conservator or another significant party.
The most common way people modify custody is by showing that there has been a significant change in a party’s circumstances, which is a very broad category and can be proven in a variety of ways.
No, not the legal standard is the best interests of the child.
No, grandparents do not typically have custody and visitation rights, unless they can meet exceptional statutory requirements.
Absolutely. We present our clients a list of twenty things that will significantly increase custody chances.
Children do not appear unless the child is at least twelve years old and one parent has filed a Motion to Confer with Child to ask the child with whom it wants to reside.
A Temporary Restraining Order will prevent this.
The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act is a federal statute that uniforms and facilitates jurisdiction and enforcement standards in family matters involving multiple states.
Removing children from U.S. territory against or without the other parent’s consent is a serious crime. Call us immediately, you must not lose time.
No. Both parents must consent to change the child’s last name.
Typically the parent who is awarded the right to designate the primary residence and/or has possession and access to the child a majority of the time is the recipient of child support.
Absolutely no! Visitation rights and child support are two entirely different things. Lack of access or refused access to a child is no justification whatsoever to stop making child support payments.
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