How to Obtain Child Custody In Texas
Parents getting a separating or divorcing in Texas may worry about their children. Child custody will become the primary consideration during this process. It can seem complicated. However, in Texas, child custody is pretty direct. Parents can determine child custody arrangments through a negotiated settlement agreement or the courts.
Decide What Custody Arrangement You Want
You must decide the type of custody arrangement you want. Texas law has two terms that define child custody; Joint Managing Conservator (JMC) and a Sole Managing Conservator (SMC).
The first, JMC custody arrangement provides both parents the rights and responsibilities of parenting the children. One parent is typically determined to have primary custody of the child. However, it is possible for the parents to share physical custody equally. JMC provides for both parents involved in decisions such as medical care and education.
The second, SMC custody arrangement, only one parent is given the rights and responsibilities of parenting the children. SMC also provides that parent with the sole physical custody of the children, as well as, the ability to make decisions for medical care and education.
In Texas, there is a bias towards awarding JMCs. SMCs can be challenging to obtain. However, SMCSs are appropriate where the other parent is either incapable of or unwilling to take care of the children. An SMC is also necessary if there are issues of domestic abuse or criminal activity.
Consider what type of visitation rights you would prefer that the other parent receives. Texas law refers to visitation as "possession and access." Parents can agree to any "possession and access" schedule that is in the best interest of the children. When parents are unable to agree on a plan, the court will order a standard possession and access schedule established by law.
Try to Negotiate a Settlement
Once you have decided which custody arrangement is best, try to discuss with the other parent a visitation schedule. Coming to agree on these issues when you can. If you can reach an agreement, it is a relatively simple matter to submit that agreement to the court for approval.
Go to Court
If you are unable to reach an agreement, the decision will be made by the court. You will have to file paperwork asking the court to decide the child custody issues. If the paternity of the children is questioned and no legal determination has been made, then the court will need to determine paternity before custody can be determined.
But if there are no paternity issues involved, a "Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship" (SAPCR) is typically filed. The purpose of a SAPCR is to ask the court for a child custody order. Once a SAPCR case has been filed, the other parent will have an opportunity to respond, and then a hearing will be scheduled. The court may also wish to talk with the children involved.
Carefully read all papers provided by the other parent or their attorney. It is also important to attend all scheduled court hearings. The court will review all the facts of the case and will issue a child custody order based on the best interests of the children.
Texas Law Help has a resource, Tips for the Courtroom. It is essential to understand the etiquette of the court. Also, check out TRLA’s Child Custody Fact Sheet. Rules governing child custody cases in Texas are found in Title 5 of the Texas Family Code.
Seek assistance with your custody case
Seek legal guidance to determine what action is best in your situation. Contact America Family Law Center for help with child custody in Texas.