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How is Child Custody Determined After A Divorce?

April 14, 2019

When a couple divorces, one of the first things the parents consider is how this is going to affect the children. Separation is always a challenging time that leads to more questions than answers, but that is even more true for the children involved.

In terms of deciding child custody, Texas law indicates a preference for parents to share custody of the children whenever it is practical to do so. The Family Code in Chapter 153 of the Texas Statutes suggests that the court system presumes for joint managing conservators, but the best interest of the child is given priority.

When custody is decided, different options can be considered. The court can order sole custody, which is care being given to one parent. That means the child resides primarily with that parent and that parent is given the right to make all the most important decisions regarding the upbringing of the child.

The courts prefer joint custody arrangements whenever possible, which means that the child will primarily reside with one parent while the other parent will have visitation rights. Regardless, both parents share the decision-making regarding the child. Another option is shared custody, which means that the parents share the legal custody rights and the child has two legal residences.

With shared custody, the child lives with each parent for at least 35% of the year. The last option, which is called split custody, isn’t used often. This situation is when at least two children are involved, and each parent gets full custody of at least one of the children.

Other Details About Texas Child Custody

Texas laws set other specifications about child custody as well. Often, the divorcing parents of minor children are required to attend a mandatory parenting class before a divorce is granted. The parenting class is designed to help both parents and the children deal with the traumatic experience of separation and divorce. Both parents must complete the course unless the court grants a waiver to one or both parties.

While some parents attend this course in a class setting, there are online courses available to meet the requirements of the state law. In either case, you will receive a certificate upon your completion of the program. You will need to provide a copy of the certificate of completion to your divorce attorney and the court.

Differences in Legal Custody and Physical Custody in Texas

According to Texas law, legal custody refers to the parent’s right to raise a child and make decisions that pertain to the child’s daily activities and upbringings, such as the child’s religious teachings, educational matters, extracurricular activities, and medical care. Physical custody refers to possession – or who has the physical possession of the child in their home. Texas law calls the parent with physical custody as the “possessory conservator.”

What are Best Interests in Texas Child Custody Cases?

The Texas Family Code Section 154.004 makes a description of the standard that refers to “the best interests of the child.” The court will carefully evaluate each parent’s home environment, the distance between the homes of the two parents, and each parent’s ability to serve as primary caretaker for the child or children. Those aspects, along with whether the parents can agree to work together to raise the children, the financial situation of both parents, and the employment situation of each are considered by the court when deciding custody. If the child is at least 12 years of age, his or her preference will also be discussed.

If you are currently going through divorce proceedings or would like to regain custody of your children, then it is essential that you hire an experienced Texas family attorney who specializes in child custody cases, like those at Fears Nachawati.

Our team has helped countless families navigate the proceedings when it comes to divorce and child custody and having a compassionate and knowledgeable professional on your side can mean a world of difference during this difficult period.

For your free, no-obligation legal consultation, please call (866) 705-7584 or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.


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