Understanding Child Custody Laws in Texas

Child custody laws in Texas is legally referred to as conservatorship. The parent is the custodian of the child (a minor), so the parent is named conservator through Texas family courts. What other states refer to as custody and visitation, or parental responsibilities, are the various aspects of conservatorship in Texas. As with custody, conservatorship has two main forms:

Sole Conservatorship

Joint Conservatorship

As the terminology implies, the first refers to an arrangement in which one custodian (parent) has sole conservatorship (custody) over their child, including legal and physical custody. The second refers to a joint parenting approach, where both parents take equal or shared responsibility for their child. Like legal custody, conservatorship gives a parent the following rights:

To make legal, medical, and religious decisions

To access psychological and educational needs

To provide consent for medical related treatments

To inquire about school activities and progress

The above list is not all-inclusive, there are more rights as well. In joint conservatorship, parents raise the child together but may split the decision-making process. One parent retains the rights to decide certain matters alone.

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Sole and Joint Child Custody Laws in Texas

Parents themselves first decide sole or joint custody (conservatorship), and then this decision gets approved by a judge. Most custody battles are about who gets sole custody. Family courts throughout the states prefer when both parents continue to cooperate in raising their child after a breakup/divorce. While joint custody was rare in the past, efforts by state courts and changes in the custody battle dynamic have seen increases in joint conservatorship arrangements. If neither parent can agree to how a child should be raised, then it’s typical to seek a professional mediator to help resolve the issue.

Parental responsibilities must be detailed through a written parenting plan dictating the terms of the conservatorship, before bringing it to a judge for the final decision-making process. Family courts in Texas award sole conservatorship to the parent who is most fit to raise a child. But only if the other parent is unable or unfit to raise their child – due to an inability or unwillingness to fulfill parental responsibilities. Factors that could render a parent unfit include domestic violence, drug abuse, criminal activity, abandonment, and extreme conflict with the other parent, leading to a dangerous and unsafe environment for the child.

Texas Custody and Visitation Rights for Fathers

In cases of sole conservatorship, visitation is awarded to the other parent through a standard possession order. This is not the case for parents who are unfit. However, if the final court order gives one parent sole custody, the other has the right to seek visitation. Given a drastic change of circumstances, that parent may even have the right to request joint custody.

Legal Help for Child Custody Laws in Texas

Determining conservatorship and parental obligations in the state of Texas can be challenging. Family Law Legal Group can help you navigate your way through these challenging times. It is especially important to consider legal help when faced with potential attacks on your rights as a parent under child custody laws in Texas.


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