Texas Family Code § 152.102 defines a child custody determination as a court order that decides a child’s legal custody, physical custody, or visitation terms. A child custody case is separate from a child support or adoption case. Child custody cases can appear at any point in the process and can either be temporary, permanent, or modified.
The state of Texas now refers to child custody as a conservatorship. The grounds for a child custody or conservatorship case can appear when the parents of the children decide that they want to get a divorce or choose they no longer wish to live together. Examples also involve couples who never lived together in the first place or non-parents caring for the child. The court has to appoint at least one conservator when the parents are separated or plan to be separated. A family law attorney for child custody can sit with you and discuss the steps to take to have a better chance at your child custody case or conservatorship case.
Child Custody Attorney in Cameron County, Texas
It is difficult enough to go through a divorce or separation from your partner, but now you have to battle to keep your child with you. At The Gracia Law Firm, we understand the hardships of this legal battle. You will need viable legal counsel to walk you through the steps of the conservatorship (child custody) process.
Our family law attorneys can explain the legal process for a conservatorship (child custody) case according to Texas law when you call to schedule a consultation. Once we analyze the situation surrounding your conservatorship (child custody) case, we can decide what your expectations look like in the case, and how we can best achieve them. We will most likely be coming up with a parenting plan together to have something to show during a court process in case need be.
Call us for a free consultation over the phone, at (956) 504-2211. Our family law attorneys work with clients from Cameron County, Hidalgo County, and Willacy County.
Overview of Child Custody
Types of Child Custody
Legal child custody or conservatorship can give the right for a custodian of the child to do the following:
- Receive information about the child’s health, education, and welfare from any other parent or conservator;
- Speak to the other parent or conservator regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare;
- Access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
- Speak to a medical physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
- Talk to school officials about the child’s academic status and school activities;
- Attend school events;
- Be the designated emergency contact for the child; or
- Consent to medical, dental, or surgical treatments in case of an emergency.
Texas has two types of custody or conservatorship agreements. The first type of custody or conservatorship agreement is a sole managing conservator. This type of conservatorship also applies to a non-parent of the child. The sole managing conservator can have the rights listed above, as well as other additional rights listed below:
- Decide the primary residence of the child (physical custody);
- Influence religious practices onto the child;
- Consent to psychiatric and psychological treatments;
- Receive child support;
- Consent to marriage;
- Possess the child’s passport; or apply or renew the child’s passport; or
- Make academics related decisions.
The second is a joint managing conservator. A joint managing conservatorship is joint custody between the two parents or custodians. Though parents or custodians share some rights, the court can adjust exclusive rights to one parent over the other, all in the best interest of the child. However, the appointment of conservatorship over the child doesn’t determine whether the child gets to spend more time with one parent over the other.
A parenting plan, as required by Texas law, is a legal document that is either temporary or permanent and decides the rights and duties of each parent. A standard possession order (SPO), included within the parenting plan, is the official document that determines visitation rights like possession of the child or access to the child. If the parents have come up with a parenting plan together, then the court will use the parenting plan to determine those exclusive rights over the child. Otherwise, if there is no parenting plan from the parents, then the court might assign a joint managing conservatorship if they deem it in the best interest of the child.
Child Custody Process in Texas
Some residency requirements need to be met before submitting a child custody case in Texas. The child must currently reside in the state of Texas or must have lived in Texas for the last six months before submitting the case, and a current custodian of the child must still reside in the state. Exceptions to the residency requirements can include connections that link the child, or the child and at least one parent to the state of Texas besides residency. In a temporary emergency jurisdiction, a child who resides or is abandoned in Texas is granted jurisdiction in Texas. A court in this state can always decline jurisdiction over a child’s custody case if appropriate. If a child’s custody determination is from another state in the U.S. or another country, then the Texas state must recognize that child custody determination. There are exceptions, like, for instance, if said child custody determination is violating any human rights, then it might be invalid.
The court can give the right to notice or hearing to any parent whose parental rights have not been apprehended previously, or any individual who physically cares for the child. Laws involving child custody cases make it clear that any point the court handling litigation over a child’s custody has the right to request a party’s presence in court with or without the child. If the person of interest does not reside in the state of Texas, he or she must still abide by the request; otherwise, it may result in unfavorable outcomes to the party of interest.
Determining Child Custody
Texas Family Code § 153.001 makes it clear that when determining the conservatorship or custody of a child, the factors are dependent on the following:
- Assuring that the child is in contact with parents who show to act in the best interest of the child;
- Providing a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
- Encouraging parents to share the rights and duties of raising the child regardless of separation or dissolution of marriage.
The biological parents of the child aren’t given any favoritism when the court decides the conservatorship of a child. There is also no discrimination based on sex or marital status. However, the court appoints the title of a conservator to someone who meets the standards and is either a parent, another capable adult, a child agency, or the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Some factors that are taken into account when considering denial, restriction, or limitations of conservatorship include the following:
- One of the parents/parties have any history of substance abuse
- One of the parents/parties have any history of domestic or family violence
- One of the parents/parties have any history of sexual abuse or prohibited sexual conduct
- One of the parents/parties have any history of abandonment, abuse or neglect
- One of the parents/parties have been mostly absent
- One of the parents/parties have a final protective order against them
- The parents/parties have a history of conflict over the child’s conservatorship
- The emotional well-being of the child
- The household members living with one of the parents/parties who have unsupervised access to the child during visitation
A child custody case is not always permanent, and many times one or both parents might request a modification. If there’s an extreme case in which one parent is no longer allowed to access the child, then a child custody case can also lead to a termination of parental rights.
Immediate Warrant for Physical Custody
Texas Family Code §152.311 establishes a warrant for physical custody of a child following a petition for the enforcement of a child custody determination. Orders like this happen when parents or custodians are not following child custody rules, and the other parent or custodian finds that the child is subject to physical danger or is likely to be taken out of the state. This type of warrant can be granted during parental kidnapping cases. If a court finds the testimony of the petitioner or another witness to be viable, then the court will hold a hearing the next day available. The court can always authorize law enforcement officials to make forced entry into private property to remove the child.
Child Custody Evaluation
Texas Family Code § 107.101 refers to cases where the parents cannot agree on custody. The court can appoint a child custody evaluator; the parents can also request one themselves. The evaluator can access the child’s medical and school records and interview sources for the child’s benefit. An evaluator can also choose to evaluate the child through a certified professional such as a psychologist or physician. However, a child custody evaluator must follow protocols per the court for their evaluation and suggestion for conservatorship to be considered acceptable.
Texas Access Help Page – The Texas Access website is a general webpage related to issues of child custody and visitation rights. The page offers excellent tools for parents, including a glossary of legal terms related to conservatorship or child custody. They also provide additional resources for parents dealing with child custody or conservatorship issues.
The Best Interests of the Child – An article published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway titled “Determining the Best Interests of the Child” is designed to help parents in the event of a child custody battle. The article reviews what the principles are for determining the best interest of a child. Texas is among the states that puts the child’s welfare first and foremost when it comes to deciding conservatorship.
Brownsville Attorney for Child Custody
If you are fighting for the conservatorship of your child in a child custody case, you need legal counsel that advises you on your rights in the case. The attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm have experience in family law cases, including child custody, and they can advise you on your case.
Child custody cases are far-reaching because we are deciding the future of another human being, and we cannot make those decisions lightly. Our attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm will put all their efforts into your case when you work with us. Call (956) 504-2211 for a free consultation or fill out one of the case review forms at the bottom of the page.
We work with clients residing in the Brownsville area, as well as the counties of Hidalgo, Cameron, and Willacy.