Working out child custody can be the most difficult part of a divorce or the breakup of a non-marital relationship where children are involved. Ideally, the parties will reach an amicable, court-approved agreement. However, when parties cannot agree, custody issues will be decided by the court.
Scroggins Law Group knows that emotions run high around the issue of child custody and that individual circumstances will impact a family’s options. We also know that fighting for moments with your child and constant arguing with your ex about important child-rearing decisions is not sustainable. The best way to get handle on your rights in this area is with the assistance of experienced legal counsel.
Scroggins Law Group has a long history helping families find a way to protect the best interest of their children. By actively listening to your parenting concerns from physical custody to decision-making, we help you build a workable custody plan that will fit the needs of everyone involved. We recognize that every family requires customized attention, and we are confident in our ability to find the right solution for yours.
What is the "Best Interest of Child" Standard under Texas Law?
In Texas, there is a legal presumption that both parents will be entitled to joint legal custody (“conservatorship”) of their children with visitation rights (“possession and access”) unless evidence shows that the presumption is not in “best interest of the child.” For now, let’s focus on what that standard means under Texas Family Law.
The “best interest of the child” standard is based on a Texas statute, which prioritizes the child’s needs and parents’ abilities to meet them, rather than relying on outdated stereotypes such as those that favored mothers over fathers as primary caregivers. Just a few of the many factors that Texas courts consider include:
- Child’s age and special physical or mental considerations
- Each parent’s ability to provide for health and nutrition
- Each parent’s ability to provide appropriate supervision and discipline
- Access to support system, including extended family
- History of physical or mental abuse
The best interest of the child can change over time due to both the circumstances of the parents and the changing needs of growing children. However, once a custody order is in place, it can be difficult to modify. The child custody lawyers of Scroggins Law Group are here to advocate for you and your child through whatever circumstances or challenges that stand to impact the judge’s final order.
Presumption of Joint Custody in Texas
Under the Texas Family Code, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship.” Conservatorship is broken down further into:
- Joint Managing Conservatorship
- Sole Managing Conservatorship
- Possessory Conservatorship
Texas law presumes that both parents will be fit to spend time with and participate in decision-making on behalf of the child in a “joint managing conservatorship.” Parents with this custody arrangement share all the rights and duties described in the Texas Family Code. However, if joint custodial parents are not in agreement about a certain issue, the court may grant the decision-making authority on that issue to one parent.
The presumption of joint managing conservatorship may be rebutted with the introduction of evidence that such an arrangement would not be in the child’s best interest. For example, a history of violence, child abuse, or other factors that would impair the child’s health or well-being will be considered by the Judge before making a final determination. It is best to bring these issues up with your attorney right away.
If the court finds that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child, then the court may appoint one parent as the “sole managing conservator.” When one parent is designated as the sole managing conservator, the other parent will likely be designated a “possessory conservator,” meaning they will have significantly fewer rights regarding child rearing decisions.
Possession and Access: Texas Visitation Rights
Texas law refers to a visitation order as a “possession order.” A possession order states when each parent has the right to spend time with, or “possess,” the child. Though a standard order with a default visitation schedule does exist, parents can agree to their own modifications. Judges generally grant wide latitude so long as the proposed order is drafted to support the best interest of the child.
The Texas Family Code makes clear that joint managing conservatorships do not require Courts to divide physical possession of and access to children equally between parents. Texas public policy simply encourages frequent contact between parents and children, the sharing of parental responsibilities, and a safe haven for the kids. For parents who live near each other, a 50/50 Possession Order is a possibility, though not a requirement.
More commonly, children will have a primary domicile with one parent and receive child support from the “non-primary” parent. However, non-payment of child support is not a valid reason to withhold visitation rights from a conservator. Texas views the right of visitation as separate and distinct from child support because it is not in the public interest to treat visitation as a bargained-for transaction. However, residential parents who are not receiving the ordered child support, should still speak with an attorney about options for enforcement.
Child Custody Attorneys Trusted by Texas Parents Like You
Child Custody Attorneys Trusted by Texas Parents Like YouScroggins Law Group has over 100 years of combined firm experience, helping families in Dallas, Plano, Frisco, and other areas throughout North Texas find a way through the highly-charged emotions that come with settling child custody disputes. We take the time to listen to your questions, provide thoughtful answers, respond quickly, and keep you informed of every development as it happens. We know you are trusting us with the future for you and your kids, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
Partners Mark L. Scroggins and John Withers, Jr. are both *board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Together with the dedicated professionals of Scroggins Law Group, we are confident in our ability to see you through this difficult journey and help you achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Please give us a call to set up a private consultation.
Unless otherwise noted, other attorneys are not *board-certified.
Texas Family Code, TITLE 5. THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP AND THE SUIT AFFECTING THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP SUBTITLE B. SUITS AFFECTING THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP CHAPTER 153. CONSERVATORSHIP, POSSESSION, AND ACCESS SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.153.htm