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Texas Jurisdiction over Child Custody

How do you know if child custody will be an issue in your case? Custody proceedings are part of every family law matter involving children. Parenting issues can arise out of a couple’s divorce, separation, annulment, or following an establishment of paternity.

Therefore, if you have minor children, custody decisions must be made. Once the court asserts jurisdiction, the judge will render a judgment and issue orders accordingly. Those orders will cover:

  1. Child Support
  2. Parenting Time
  3. Rights and Duties

Before Texas will hear a family law case, make decisions, and issue orders, it must have proper jurisdiction or authority. The court must have:

  1. Jurisdiction over the subject matter of the lawsuit;
  2. Jurisdiction over both parties to the lawsuit;
  3. Jurisdiction over custody under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA); and
  4. Jurisdiction over property and things located in Texas.

What If Texas Does Not Have Jurisdiction?

If Texas lacks jurisdiction, then the case must be filed in the state that has jurisdiction.

Let us take a closer look at each of these so you can understand why establishing jurisdiction is an essential first step.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

An example of subject matter in a family law context would be cases such as:

  1. Divorce
  2. Child Custody
  3. Child Support
  4. Annulment

Certain courts can only hear certain types of cases. A court cannot hear a case when the subject matter is not present, even if both parties would like the court to hear the case.

Jurisdiction Over Parties

Think of jurisdiction over the parties as asking the question: “does Texas have a reasonable connection to the people asking for relief from the court?”

For example, if a spouse files for divorce here, then one of the spouses must have lived in Texas (or stationed here if a service member) for six months. They also must have lived in the county where they are filing for 90 days or longer.

Often it is only a matter of waiting longer before filing for divorce to establish personal jurisdiction.


Specific to custody, Texas is a part of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

Below is just a brief overview, but in order for a Texas court to have the authority to make an initial child custody determination or decision:

  1. Texas must have been where the child has lived for the most recent six months (“home state” jurisdiction); or
  1. Texas has the most significant connection with the child and at least one parent, in terms of evidence, contacts, etc.; or
  1. The child is physically present in Texas and needs protection because of abandonment or some emergency; or
  1. No other state is able to assert jurisdiction or choose to assert jurisdiction if it could and it is in the best interest of the child for Texas to assume jurisdiction.

If none of those circumstances exist, then the court lacks jurisdiction over the child and will dismiss the case.

Jurisdiction over Property and Things

Jurisdiction over property and things is also known as “in rem” jurisdiction. This refers to the court’s power over the parties’ property and assets that are located in Texas. The court exercises in rem jurisdiction in every divorce when it divides the couple’s property.

When jurisdiction is established, the next step is to decide the property venue – that is, which Texas county to file in.

As mentioned earlier in the divorce context, a couple could file in any county that either of them had lived in for the last 90 days.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Help!! My Ex-Spouse Kidnapped my Child
  2. Where in the world did I file this case? Jurisdiction in Child Custody Cases
  3. Getting Ready for Divorce in 2017 in Texas: Part Two of a Two Part Series
  4. Dividing Property in a Texas Divorce - The Just and Right Division
  5. Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
  6. What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
  7. Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
  8. Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
  9. Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
  10. Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce
  11. Business Owners and Business Assets in a Texas Divorce
  12. What to do when your divorce decree does not include a marital asset?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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