The primary concerns of any parent going through a divorce are their rights as a parent and how to protect the best interests of their children. Child custody laws can be confusing all on their own but the situation can become even more complicated if they involve multiple jurisdictions.
In Which State Will I File For Child Custody?
Many parents choose to move to another state either during or after divorce proceedings have begun. The means that figuring out which state to file for custody in can be a little confusing. According to the Texas Family Code, child custody must be filed in the child’s “home state” so long as no other courts have jurisdiction or have declined jurisdiction. “Home state” is defined as the state the child lives, or most recently lived in for a period of at least 6 consecutive months just prior to filing for custody.
How Does Texas Child Custody Law Differ From Other States?
The biggest difference between the child custody laws in Texas and the laws in other states is the language describing custody. In Texas custody is a ‘conservatorship’ and breaks down into the following categories:
Awarding Child Custody
Texas laws assume that both parents are fit to hold joint managing conservatorship of their children. Unless proven otherwise, this is how child custody is usually awarded with one parent being named as the primary conservator. Primary conservatorship is typically awarded to the parent who has spent the most time caring for the children. This includes acts of daily and future care such as:
- Feeding and bathing the children
- Managing daily routines such as getting ready for school or bed
- Providing transportation to and from school and extracurricular activities
- Helping with homework
- Attending school meetings and conferences
- Tending to the child’s medical, dental, and psychological health by scheduling and providing transportation to and from appointments
- Attending sporting events, competitions, or other performances involving the child
Remember, which parent receives primary custody is not a determination of which parent loves the child the most. It is simply a statement of which parent has been primarily responsible for tending to these daily needs, and which parent is best able to continue providing for those needs.
What Are My Rights As A Custodial Parent?
The rights and responsibilities specifically guaranteed to a primary or sole managing conservator, or primary custodial parent, under Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code are as follows:
- the right to designate the primary residence of the child;
- the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
- the rights 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;
- the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
- and the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
- the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
- the rights to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
- the right to the services and earnings of the child; and
- 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 agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by the state, the United States, or a foreign government.
As a joint managing conservator, your rights are the same as the primary conservator with the exception of the right to determine the child’s primary residence. The primary conservator exclusively holds that right. However, depending on the particulars of your case, other rights may be held jointly, exclusively, or independently.
What Are My Rights As a Non-Custodial Parent?
To paraphrase somewhat, Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code states that unless otherwise determined by the court, as a possessory conservator, or non-custodial parent, you have the following rights:
The rights to receive information from any other conservator of the children concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children… [and to confer with them when decisions must be made regarding those topics];
- The right to consult with school officials concerning the children’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
- And the right to attend school activities;
- The right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the children… [and to consult with said professionals];
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the children in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the children; and
- The right to be designated on the children’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency… [and]… to consent to any treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the children; and
The right to manage the estates of the children to the extent the estates have been created by the parent or the parent’s family.
- The duty to inform the other conservator of the children if the conservator resides with for at least thirty days, marries, or intends to marry a person who the conservator knows is registered as a sex offender under chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or is currently charged with an offense for which on conviction the person would be required to register under that chapter.
Can A Child Choose Which Parent They Live With?
A common misconception about child custody laws in Texas is that at 12 year old a child can choose which parent they live with. This is untrue. The court will take the child’s desires into consideration, however, the needs of the child and parental fitness take first priority.
Can You Modify A Child Custody Agreement?
Yes. Life likes to throw the occasional curve-ball and you may need to modify your custody agreement to reflect these changes. This is normal. It’s important to note, however, that any changes must be filed with the court that issued the agreement. This holds true even if you no longer live in that state.
Will I Need To Pay Child Support?
Even with joint custody, you may still have to pay child support. An experienced family law attorney will be able to help you reach a fair and reasonable child support agreement.
How Does Abuse or Criminal History Affect Child Custody?
The court’s first priority is to ensure the safety and welfare of the children involved in each child custody case. Therefore, if there is a history of abuse or criminal activity, this may affect the court’s decision. Having a documented history of any abuse or criminal activity will strengthen the case against an individual the other parent feels is unfit to hold custody or visitation.
Consult with an Attorney for Your Child Custody Case
It’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney regarding any child custody case. Speaking with an experienced lawyer helps you thoroughly understand your rights. It also helps to have someone who knows how to file all the paperwork correctly. The last thing you want to gamble with is your child’s future.
In the best cases, parents will agree on what is best for the child. However, child custody cases also have the potential to get quite ugly. Having someone in your corner that understands all the laws regarding custody in Texas is priceless. An attorney with experience in family law can prepare you for any challenges you may face. They’ll also be at your side through those challenges. Every parent wants what’s right for their child. However, they may have different ideas on what that is. When disagreements arise, it’s best to have a qualified attorney at your side.
If you have any questions about Child Custody laws in Texas, call Wilson & Associates Law, P.C. at 214-740-2722 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney in Flower Mound.