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Child Custody 101: What Decides Custody Of A Child?

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There are approximately 12.9 million custodial parents across the US. The number of children impacted by custody agreements is understandably much larger.

While those numbers are huge,  what really matters to you is the custody of your own child. Working out child custody can be scary, emotional, and exhausting. It’s hard to imagine your child not being with you. It might even be hard to imagine how anyone could not see you as the better option for parenting your child.

Child custody cases are fraught with emotion and complications and often require you to have a child custody attorney who can help you navigate the process and look out not only for your interests but the interests of your child too.

Read on to learn more about the intricacies of child custody, how it’s decided and how we can help you with your case.


Child Custody in Texas

In Texas, the term child custody is referred to in a slightly different manner. Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code refers to child custody as conservatorship. The laws around conservatorship allow for one or both parents to be named as conservators and grants rights related to who has access to the child.

Texas recognizes two types of conservators

  • Managing conservator
  • Possessory conservator

Managing conservators can be classified two ways in Texas. They can be the sole managing conservator which means they are acting alone in making decisions for the child. Or they can be the joint managing conservator. In a joint conservatorship, both parents are involved.

Who Decides Where My Child Lives

If you are in the heat of a custody dispute with your child’s other parent, this is probably the biggest issue weighing on you. Who gets to decide where my child will live? More importantly, how do they make this decision?

It might surprise you to learn, especially if you’re disputing custody, that nearly 90% of all custody cases are decided without the court getting involved. The parents are able to come to an agreement they can each live with.

But what happens when you can’t come to an agreement with the other parent? Then you need to get a child custody lawyer to act on your behalf and present your case to the courts.

It’s expected that a court and a judge will attempt to make a decision for custody with emotions set aside and try to choose with the best interests of the child in mind.

Best Interests Standards

If you and the other parent are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, then the courts do need to get involved. It will become their job to investigate, consider all factors and then make a determination for custody between the parents.  Of course, you present your best arguments to show how you’re the best choice for parenting.

Yet, once the courts are involved, you are at their discretion with the decision-making. Sometimes, though, it’s the only way to reach an agreement that the other parent will be forced legally to abide by.

What Does the Best Interest Standard Mean From the Courts Point of View?

The child custody lawyer from each side will present their case and the court will investigate both parents. Ultimately, they have to make a decision based on the best interests of the child. So, what factors into the best interests standard?

Best interests considerations will include:

  • Confirmed evidence of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence by either parent
  • Ability to provide for physical needs, medical care, and emotional wellness
  • Current custody arrangement vs disrupting the arrangement and the impact on the child
  • Can the parent provide a stable loving home environment?
  • If old enough, what are the wishes of the child? Are they old enough to make a sound decision?
  • Child’s attachment to their home, school, neighborhood, or community
  • Living conditions for each parent
  • Will the child have a room or space of their own?
  • Physical and mental health of each parent
  • Relationship quality between the child and each of the parents
  • Willingness to support a healthy ongoing relationship with the other parent
  • Who has provided the majority of the child’s care? Is the care consistent?
  • Has one parent ever raised false allegations related to neglect or abuse against the other parent?
  • Age of the child and how their age impacts who they live with (for example, a nursing mother)

The court, often a court-appointed referee, will also often ask each parent their wishes. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. But the court will want to hear your preferences for the custody agreement and your rationale. The wishes of the parent and the reason for them might weigh on their decision-making.

In particularly contentious situations, you may be asked to offer character witnesses too who can speak on your behalf.

While there are many factors for best interests standards, they help guide the decision-making in custody.

Physical and Legal Custody

There are really two considerations for custody (or conservatorship in Texas).

Physical custody involves who the child resides with and how the parenting time of each parent is divided up. Parents might have joint physical custody. This can mean they share equally in the parenting time. It can also mean one parent spends more time with the child while the other gets some time.

Sole physical custody means one parent has sole custody of the child. This doesn’t necessarily mean the child doesn’t see the other parent. One parent could have sole physical custody, while the other parent gets some established visitation times.

Legal custody involves making those important legal decisions on behalf of the child. This includes things like schooling and medical decisions. Courts can grant either shared legal custody, requiring parents to make joint decisions, or sole legal custody, which gives one parent the decision-making responsibility.

Get the Help You Need to Solve Your Child Custody Issues

Arranging child custody with another parent with whom you aren’t in a relationship anymore can be a really anxious and emotional experience. You want what you believe is best for your child and may not have the same views on this as the other parent.

It often becomes necessary for the courts to help guide the decision-making if parents can’t do it alone. If you find yourself in this position, it’s critical that you get a child custody attorney who can help you through the process.

If you need help with your child’s custody, contact us so we can get started working to keep your child with you as much as possible.

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