When you face a divorce as a parent, the well-being of your children is of your utmost concern. Texas presumes that parents will have joint legal and physical custody, also called conservatorship, of minor children.
Knowing what to expect when you negotiate a child custody agreement can remove some of the anxiety and stress from this difficult time.
Understanding legal and physical conservatorship
With shared legal custody, each parent has the right to participate in important decisions, such as choice about the child’s religion, health care and education. Physical custody describes where the child resides most of the time. With shared physical custody, the child lives with each parent at least 35% of the time. Otherwise, the child will live mainly with one parent and have visitation with the other parent.
Exploring the best interest standard
Texas will decide on custody based on the child’s best interest. During the custody hearing, the judge will consider evidence that illustrates:
- The child’s preference if he or she is 12 or older
- Each parent’s work hours and employment situation
- The financial situation of each parent
- The ability of each parent to foster a healthy, effective co-parenting relationship
- The ability of each parent to care for the child and provide a safe, healthy home environment
- The geographic distance between the parents’ homes
- The child’s current physical and emotional health
- The stability of each parent’s home
Within these areas, the judge has full discretion to make the custody decision that he or she feels is best for the child’s overall well-being. The default is shared custody, although the judge will award sole custody to one parent if the other parent has a history of domestic violence, neglect or abuse.
In addition, Texas requires both parents to participate in a parenting class that helps children cope with the impact of divorce. You can complete this requirement either in person or online, or ask the court for a waiver of this requirement.