One of the most important relationships is the parent-child relationship. These bonds help children to grow and thrive, and can affect them for the remainder of their lives. Since not all family situations are the same, the custody of a child can be in limbo during divorce proceedings or other family law matters.
Child custody laws in Texas express a preference for each parent to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child. Typically, Texas courts prefer joint custody arrangements so a child can maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents. Some couples may find it nearly impossible to have or maintain joint custody, however, for a variety of reasons. Having the insight and knowledge of an experienced child custody attorney can help.
The Texas Family Code refers to child custody as “conservatorship.” In the state of Texas there are three different types of conservatorship that can be obtained: Joint Managing Conservator, Sole Managing Conservator, and Possessory Conservator.
Joint Managing Conservator
Under Texas law, parents are usually named Joint Managing Conservators, which means they share in the decision making about most custody issues. However, it does not mean the child’s time is split equally between the parents. Instead, a possession order will determine when each parent has the right to time with the child.
In most joint conservatorship orders, one parent (known as the custodial parent) will have the exclusive right to decide where the child lives. Most often, the child will reside primarily with this custodial parent. However, in some circumstances neither parent will have the exclusive right to decide where the child lives, but the child’s residence will be restricted to a certain geographic area, like a school zone or local county.
Sole Managing Conservator
In certain situations, one parent (or even sometimes a non-parent) can be named Sole Managing Conservator and thus have the exclusive right to make most decisions about the child and their wellbeing. While there are many reasons why this can happen, the most common reasons for Sole Managing Conservatorship include:
- Family violence by the other parent
- Child abuse or neglect by the other parent
- Alcohol or drug abuse by the other parent
- Absence of the other parent in the child’s life
If one parent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, the other parent is usually referred to as the Possessory Conservator. If a non-parent is named the Sole Managing Conservator, both biological parents will usually be known as the Possessory Conservators. A Possessory Conservator still has parental rights, but will not have the final say on most decisions.
Child Custody and Domestic Abuse
Unfortunately, domestic abuse happens in many different households across Texas. When determining child custody in a potentially abusive home environment, the court considers any evidence of domestic abuse by one spouse against the other, the parent and the child, or any person younger than 18 years of age, that has been committed within a two-year period.
If there is credible evidence of past or present child neglect or abuse by a parent, the court will award neither joint nor sole custody to that parent. If there is evidence of a history or pattern of family violence during the two-year period, the court may not allow a parent to have access to a child unless it determines such access would not endanger the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing, and would be in the best interest of the child. A child custody order in a situation involving domestic abuse may include any or all the following:
- Supervised visitation
- Exchange of the child in a protective and neutral setting
- The parent must abstain from the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances within 12 hours prior to or during the period of access to the child
- The parent must attend and complete a battering intervention and prevention program or course of treatment
Austin, Texas Child Custody Attorneys
While in most cases it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents involved, sometimes this isn’t possible. Making decisions regarding child custody arrangements are incredibly difficult, confusing, and emotional. Because of this, it is important to have an experienced and compassionate family law attorney guiding you through the process. At The Law Office of Ilana R. Tanner, we create proactive and complete child custody strategies to protect children’s rights and the decision-making powers involved therewith. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your family.