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Austin Child Custody Lawyer

There are several aspects of Texas divorce proceedings that may lead to contention. Child custody is often the most hotly contested amongst such issues. Texas courts consider several aspects when coming to a child custody arrangement. If you’re considering a divorce and have any minor children, custody arrangements should be your first consideration. The right child custody lawyer can make all the difference. Austin child custody attorney Abraham Kant Esq. is committed to protecting both your legal rights and the best interests of your children. Contact our office to schedule a free case review.

Texas Laws Regarding Child Custody

Texas law determines custody based on what is in the best interest of the child – and in their best interests only. It doesn’t, for example, consider the parents’ wishes or what would be in their best interest. The law also presumes that a child would benefit from a relationship with both parents. Texas Family Code 153 states that a joint custody arrangement is presumed to be best for the children involved. It also states the best interests of the child supersede any other consideration.

The Texas court has a few options when issuing a custody order or arrangement:

  • Sole custody occurs when the child resides with one parent only. This parent has the sole right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Generally, the courts allow sole custody only when one parent can provide sufficient proof that it would be in the child’s best interest (for example, the ex-spouse has a history of domestic abuse or drug use).
  • Joint legal custody means that the child or children still resides primarily with one parent, but the other parent enjoys a visitation schedule. Both parents are actively involved in making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.
  • Equal custody occurs if the child has two residences and lives with either parent for roughly 50% of the year. Parents share in the decision-making and upbringing of the child.
  • Split custody is a rare arrangement in which parents have at least two children, and each parent receives custody of at least one child. There are limited circumstances in which the courts would consider such an arrangement.

Legal Versus Physical Custody

Under Texas law, child custody arrangements often end in joint legal custody. This refers to a parent’s right to raise a child and make decisions about schooling, religious affiliation, extracurricular activities, and medical treatment. Physical custody refers to a parent’s actual time spent with their child. You may have joint legal custody, but the child will live primarily with one parent. Usually, that parent has more physical custody, or possession time, than the other parent. While many people use the word “custody” to describe child decision-making arrangements. Texas law uses the term ‘conservatorship’ to describe the type of legal custody arrangement ordered in your case. The law also uses ‘possession’ to refer to the physical custody arrangement.

Austin Child Custody FAQs

We’re dedicated to helping you through even the most complex child custody battle in Texas. Part of our job as Austin child custody attorneys is to answer questions and concerns clients bring to us before or during their trials. We’re happy to answer your individual, case-specific questions during a free consultation with our Austin family law lawyers. In the meantime, we hope these frequently asked questions will help you with your case.

How Do the Texas Courts Determine Child Custody?

Before you enter into a custody case in the Texas courts, it’s important to know what a judge looks at when determining living and visitation arrangements. The courts prioritize the best interests of the child. This comes before any other factor in the decision-making process. Things the court may look at include:

  • Bond between the child and parent
  • Emotional and physical needs of the child
  • Plans each parent has for the child
  • Any history of domestic violence and/or child abuse
  • Type of home and stability planned for the child

The Texas courts can order two different types of custody rights for parents: managing or possessory conservatorships. Managing conservatorship gives the parent the right to make legal decisions for the child, while possessory gives the parent the right to access and visit the child. Parents can either receive both or just one type of custody.

Will My Child Have a Say in Custody?

It depends. A child will never have the sole power to decide custody. However, if a child is 12 years or older, the courts may grant a motion to hear the child’s wishes about with whom he or she wants to live. The judge will listen to what the child has to say, but there’s no guarantee the judge will take it into consideration when determining custody.

What Is a Parenting Plan? Do I Need One?

A parenting plan outlines a parent’s rights and duties regarding the child. Most parenting plans include where the child will live, with whom he or she will spend days and weekends, how parents will split time with the child, where the child will go to school and church, who will have the power to make health care decisions, and who will pay child support. In Texas, parents have the option of creating their own parenting plan together. A judge will generally grant the proposed parenting plan if it’s in the best interests of the child. Having a parenting plan can help you avoid a child custody trial.

What Does Joint Custody Look Like?

If the court grants “joint custody” of a child in a divorce case, both parents will share possession and visitation rights, as well as the right to make decisions regarding the child. The courts will award at least partial custody to both parents, or primary custody to one parent and partial custody to another. A common joint custody agreement, for example, involves a child staying with one parent during the week and another parent on the weekends. Joint physical custody means the child will spend plenty of time with both parents, while joint legal custody gives both parents shared decision-making rights.

Can I Modify Child Custody?

Child custody agreements aren’t necessarily forever. It is possible to modify a custody arrangement if it’s in the best interests of the child. A parent can move to modify a custody agreement in Texas if both parents agree, if the child is 12 years or older and he or she wants to change primary caretakers, or if the parent with the right to determine primary residence relinquishes care of the child for at least six months.

The most common reason to change a child custody agreement is because a party’s circumstance has significantly changed. This can mean many different things, from losing one’s job to having to move out of state. It is a broad reason that many parents can successfully use to alter a child custody arrangement. A court will only approve the modification, though, if it is in the child’s best interests.

Texas child custody law can be confusing, but it’s also one of the most important aspects of your divorce proceeding. Abraham Kant’s experience as both an Austin divorce attorney and child custody lawyer can help you understand your family’s rights and child’s best interests under Texas law. Contact us to schedule a free case review today.