The following is a summary of Texas child custody laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Texas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Physical Custody.

Texas uses the term “possessory conservator” to describe which parent will have physical custody of a minor child or children. Texas uses a “standard possession order” as a guideline to determine visitation with the minor child(ren). The terms of the standard possession order can be found in Section 153.312-153.316 of the Texas Family Code.

The guidelines established in the standard possession order are intended to guide the courts in ordering the terms and conditions for possession of a child by a parent named as a possessory conservator or as the minimum possession for a joint managing conservator. There is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order provides reasonable minimum possession of a child for a parent named as a possessory conservator or joint managing conservator; and is in the best interest of the child. However, the court may render an order for periods of possession of a child that vary from the standard possession order based on the agreement of the parties.

To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a suit, the parties may enter into a written agreed parenting plan containing provisions for conservatorship and possession of the child and for modification of the parenting plan, including variations from the standard possession order. If the court finds that the agreed parenting plan is in the child’s best interest, the court shall render an order in accordance with the parenting plan. If the court finds the agreed parenting plan is not in the child’s best interest, the court may request the parties to submit a revised parenting plan or the court may render an order for the conservatorship and possession of the child.

The public policy of the state of Texas is to:

  1. Assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
  2. Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and
  3. Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining:

  1. Which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;
  2. Whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and
  3. The terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

-From Sections 153.001 through 153.007 and 153.251 through 153.255 of the Texas Family Code.

Legal Custody.

Texas uses the term “managing conservator” to describe which parent will have legal custody of the minor child(ren). The court may appoint a sole managing conservator or may appoint joint managing conservators. In determining whether to appoint a party as a sole or joint managing conservator, the court shall consider evidence of abuse. It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child. A finding of a history of family violence involving the parents of a child removes the presumption under this subsection.

The parents may file a written parenting plan with the court if they agree to be joint managing conservators or if they agree which parent will be sole managing conservator. If a written agreed parenting plan is not filed with the court, the court may render an order appointing the parents joint managing conservators only if the appointment is in the best interest of the child, considering the following factors:

  1. Whether the physical, psychological, or emotional needs and development of the child will benefit from the appointment of joint managing conservators;
  2. The ability of the parents to give first priority to the welfare of the child and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest;
  3. Whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent;
  4. Whether both parents participated in child rearing before the filing of the suit;
  5. The geographical proximity of the parents’ residences;
  6. If the child is 12 years of age or older, the child’s preference, if any, regarding the person to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child; and
  7. Any other relevant factor.

-From Section 153.004, 153.005, 153.131, and 153.154 of the Texas Family Code.

Preference of the Child.

A child 12 years of age or older may file with the court in writing the name of the person who is the child’s preference to have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, subject to the approval of the court.

-From Section 153.008 of the Texas Family Code.

Rights of Parent Appointed Conservator.

Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a sole or co-conservator of a child has at all times the right:

  1. To receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  2. To confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  3. Of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
  4. To consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
  5. To consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
  6. To attend school activities;
  7. To be designated on the child ’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
  8. To consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and
  9. To manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family.

Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the following rights and duties during the period that the parent has possession of the child:

  1. The duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
  2. The duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure;
  3. The right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure; and
  4. The right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.

-From Section 153.073 and 153.074 of the Texas Family Code.

Rights of Sole Managing Conservator.

Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as sole managing conservator of a child has the rights and duties listed above, as well as the following exclusive rights:

  1. The right to designate the primary residence of the child;
  2. The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  3. The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
  4. The right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;
  5. The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  6. The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  7. The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  8. The right to the services and earnings of the child; and
  9. Except when a guardian of the child ’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child ’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government.

-From Section 153.132 of the Texas Family Code.

 

This information has been summarized from the Texas statutes. You can find the full-text version of these and other Texas divorce statutes online here: Texas Divorce Laws.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GENERAL CHILD CUSTODY LAWS.

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