According to the Texas Statutes, Family Code, Chapter 153, the court presumes for joint managing conservators; however, the best interest of the child transcends all other considerations.
The Texas court has several options when issuing a custody order. Sole custody can be awarded to one parent, which means that the child resides primarily with that parent and that parent has the exclusive right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. However, Texas courts prefer joint custody arrangements, so the child maintains a meaningful relationship with both parents. Joint legal custody means that the child still primarily resides with one parent and the other parent enjoys visitation; however, the parents share decision-making in raising the child. Shared custody means that the parents share legal custody rights but also that the child has two residences and lives with each parent for at least 35 percent of the year. The last option is split custody and is rarely used. With this arrangement, there are at least two children, and each parent is awarded full custody of at least one child.
Legal and Physical Custody
Legal custody means a parent’s right to raise the child and make decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day upbringing, such as where the child goes to school, what religion the child practices, what medical treatments that child receives and what activities the child participates in. Physical custody means possession. In Texas, a parent with physical custody is called the “possessory conservator,” and the child resides with that parent.
Determining Child Custody in Texas
The court has great discretion when making custody determinations, but considers:
- the child’s wishes;
- the current and future emotional and physical needs of the child;
- any current or future emotional and physical danger to the child;
- the parenting abilities of each parent;
- the programs available to assist each parent to promote the best interest of the child;
- the plans for the child by each parent;
- the stability of the proposed home; and
- any acts or omissions of the parent that may indicate parental unfitness, and any explanations for such acts or omissions
Custody battles are often contentious and can be complex because the court considers so many factors when making decisions in these cases.
Texas Child Custody
In Texas, there are two different forms of custody, or conservatorship, rights given to parents. A managing conservatorship allows a parent to make legal decisions regarding the child, such as which school or church to attend, as well as the power to make financial and medical decisions for the child. A possessory conservatorship gives a parent the right to access and visit the child but not necessarily the authority to make legal decisions for the child.