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Who Usually Gets Custody in Texas?

Child custody refers to the legal arrangement and responsibility for the care, upbringing, and decision-making authority concerning a child. It determines where a child will live and how major decisions about their welfare, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing, will be made. Child custody issues typically arise during divorce, separation, or when unmarried parents separate.

There are two primary types of child custody:

  • Physical Custody: Physical custody determines where the child will primarily reside. It refers to the right and responsibility to provide a home for the child and make day-to-day decisions regarding their care and well-being. The parent with physical custody is often referred to as the “custodial parent” or “primary caretaker.

  • Legal Custody: Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This includes decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, religious practices, and other significant matters. Legal custody can be awarded solely to one parent (sole legal custody) or shared between both parents (joint legal custody).


Custody arrangements can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances and the best interests of the child. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical and legal custody, while the other parent may have visitation rights. In other instances, parents may share joint physical and legal custody, dividing parenting time and decision-making authority more equally. It is important to note that child custody is separate from visitation rights or parenting time. Even if one parent is awarded primary physical custody, the other parent typically has the right to spend time with the child, often referred to as visitation or parenting time. The specific visitation schedule can be agreed upon by the parents or determined by the court, taking into consideration the child’s best interests.

Child custody decisions are typically made by the court if the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own. The court’s primary consideration is the child’s welfare and best interests, considering factors such as the child’s age, emotional and physical needs, the parent-child relationship, each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment, and any history of abuse or neglect.

Arrangements: Guide to Sole, Joint and Split Conservatorship

Child Custody in Texas

Child custody laws in Texas are primarily guided by the best interests of the child. Texas law encourages parents to develop joint custody arrangements that allow both parents to play an active role in the child’s life, unless it is determined to be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Here is an overview of child custody laws in Texas:

  • Sole Managing Conservatorship: This is the term used in Texas for sole custody. It grants one parent the exclusive right to make major decisions concerning the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious matters. The noncustodial parent may be granted possessory conservatorship, which allows them visitation rights.

  • Joint Managing Conservatorship: Texas generally favors joint custody arrangements, referred to as joint managing conservatorship. It allows both parents to share in the decision-making responsibilities for the child. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time, as the division of physical custody can vary.

In Texas, the courts make custody decisions based on several factors, prioritizing the welfare and well-being of the child. Understanding the key considerations and legal standards involved in child custody determination is crucial for parents navigating the process.

Best Interests of the Child Standard:

The fundamental principle guiding child custody determination in Texas is the best interests of the child. Texas Family Code Section 153.002 outlines factors that courts consider when determining custody, including but not limited to:

  • Child’s Emotional and Physical Needs: The court assesses the child’s emotional and physical needs, taking into account factors such as their age, health, and special requirements.

  • Parent-Child Relationship and Bonding: The quality of the relationship between each parent and the child is evaluated, considering factors such as the level of emotional connection, communication, and involvement in the child’s life.

  • Parental Ability to Provide a Stable Environment: The court assesses the stability of each parent’s home environment, considering factors such as the availability of suitable living arrangements, support systems, and the ability to meet the child’s basic needs.

  • History of Domestic Violence or Abuse: Evidence of domestic violence or abuse, whether against the child or between the parents, is a crucial factor in determining custody, as the court seeks to protect the child from harm.

  • Child’s Preferences: The court may take into account the child’s preferences if they are of an appropriate age and maturity level to express them. However, the child’s wishes are not determinative and will be considered alongside other relevant factors.

  • Willingness to Encourage a Positive Relationship with the Other Parent: The court evaluates each parent’s willingness to support and foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent, encouraging frequent and meaningful contact.

  • Co-Parenting Abilities and Willingness to Cooperate: The court considers each parent’s ability to effectively communicate, cooperate, and make joint decisions regarding the child’s welfare.

  • Mental and Physical Health of Parents: The mental and physical well-being of each parent is taken into account, ensuring their ability to provide a nurturing and stable environment for the child.

  • Educational and Extracurricular Needs: The court considers the child’s educational and extracurricular requirements, aiming to maintain continuity and stability in their academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Child Visitation and Access: In cases where one parent is awarded sole custody, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights or possessory conservatorship. The visitation schedule is typically determined based on the child’s best interests and may include regular visitation periods, holiday schedules, and summer vacations. Texas law encourages frequent and continuing contact between the child and the noncustodial parent, unless it is deemed harmful to the child.

Modifications of Custody Orders: Child custody orders in Texas can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification or if the existing arrangement no longer serves the best interests of the child. However, the court typically emphasizes stability and continuity in a child’s life and will only modify custody orders if there is sufficient evidence to support the change.

Who Usually Gets Custody in Texas?

In Texas, there is no presumption that favors one parent over the other when it comes to child custody. The determination of custody is based on the best interests of the child, and the court considers various factors to make that decision. The court’s primary goal is to ensure the child’s emotional and physical well-being. Texas law encourages joint custody arrangements that allow both parents to play an active role in the child’s life, unless it is determined to be detrimental to the child’s best interests. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time, as the division of physical custody can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case.

Ultimately, the court examines these factors and makes a decision that is in the best interests of the child. It is important to note that the outcome of custody cases can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case, and there is no predetermined outcome or bias towards one parent over the other. The court’s decision will be based on the unique circumstances presented in each individual case. While it is not mandatory to have a lawyer to handle custody cases in Texas, it is highly recommended to seek legal representation, especially in complex or contested situations. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan offers attorneys with a deep understanding of Texas custody laws, legal procedures, and court processes and can provide valuable guidance on how to navigate the system effectively and ensure your rights are protected.

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FAQs

How does the court encourage co-parenting in Texas custody cases?

The court in Texas encourages co-parenting and the involvement of both parents in the child’s life, as long as it is in the child’s best interests. The court evaluates each parent’s willingness to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent and their ability to cooperate in making joint decisions regarding the child’s welfare.

Can grandparents or other relatives seek custody in Texas?

Yes, in certain circumstances, grandparents and other relatives may seek custody of a child in Texas. However, they must demonstrate that it is in the best interests of the child and that the child’s current living situation is harmful or inappropriate.

Can the custody arrangement be modified in the future?

Yes, custody orders can be modified in Texas if there is a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a modification or if the existing arrangement no longer serves the best interests of the child. However, the court emphasizes stability and continuity in a child’s life and will only modify custody orders if there is sufficient evidence to support the change.

Is joint custody the default arrangement in Texas?

Texas law encourages joint custody arrangements, known as joint managing conservatorship, that allow both parents to share in the decision-making responsibilities for the child.

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