May 30, 2023

Child Custody Laws in Texas: What You Need to Know

Divorce is a very delicate, challenging, and emotionally taxing process, especially when children are involved. Out of the many important aspects that need to be addressed during divorce proceedings, child custody takes center stage. Understanding the child custody laws in Texas is essential for parents navigating this complex terrain. 

Today we will explain the key protocols of child custody laws in Texas, shedding light on the child's best interests, joint managing conservatorship, creating a parenting plan, modifying custody arrangements, and the importance of seeking legal guidance.

Child Custody

Best Interests of the Child

In Texas, the child's best interests come first when deciding who gets custody of the child. The court considers several factors to determine custody arrangements that prioritize the child's welfare.

This method sheds light on the child's emotional and physical needs. The court evaluates each parent's ability to meet those needs. The court also evaluates the interactions the child has with both parents and other family members of each parent. The court wants to protect the child's total growth, stability, and well-being.

Texas Family Code Section 153.002 emphasizes that courts must make decisions based on the best interests of the child. While there is no definitive list of factors, the court considers various aspects such as the child's wishes and any history of domestic violence or abuse. It's important to remember that if a youngster is old enough and cognizant enough to express a legitimate desire, their preferences may be taken into account during the hearing.

Child with Mom

Joint Managing Conservatorship

Texas recognizes the concept of "joint managing conservatorship," which is akin to joint custody in other states. Joint managing conservatorship allows both parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child, including decision-making on matters such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. It supports the notion that, regardless of the physical custody arrangement, both parents are vital to the development of the child.

In a joint managing conservatorship arrangement, one parent may assume the role of the "custodial parent" with primary physical custody, which entails the child primarily residing with them. However, it is important to note that the other parent can still be designated as a joint managing conservator. This arrangement ensures that even though one parent has primary physical custody, the non-custodial parent still has the right and power to be involved in important decisions that impact the child's well-being.

When considering joint managing conservatorship, the court evaluates several factors to determine if it is in the best interests of the child. These factors often include the ability of the parents to work together and make decisions as a team. The court also evaluates their desire to foster their kids, their ability to maintain healthy connections with one another and any history of abuse or neglect in the family.

It should be noted that the state of Texas uses very specific categories when it comes to conservatorship as opposed to a general blanket term. If a Joint Managing Conservatorship isn’t in the cards you may consider a Sole Managing Conservatorship or a Possessory Conservatorship instead. These two typically work in tandem where the Sole Managing Conservator is solely responsible for the child and the Possessory Conservator is allowed time and access to them without the ability to make any major decisions.

Creating a Parenting Plan


In Texas, the parents are encouraged to collaborate so that they can develop a parenting plan together that is made in the best interests of the child. A parenting plan, in this case, is a legally binding document that outlines each parent's responsibilities and rights with regard to the child. It acts as a co-parenting road map and guarantees that both parents are aware and held accountable for their responsibilities.

A comprehensive parenting plan covers various aspects; including physical custody arrangements, visitation schedules, decision-making authority, child support payments, and communication between parents. It is the responsibility of the parents to consider the child's age, schedule, and developmental needs into account while drafting a parenting plan. A stable and supportive atmosphere that promotes the child's development and well-being should be provided by the plan.

The court also encourages parents to consider mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods to reach a mutually agreeable parenting plan. Mediation allows parents to work with a neutral third party (often a trained mediator) who can facilitate discussions and help them find common ground. By engaging in open and constructive communication parents can craft a parenting plan that reflects the unique dynamics of their family.

The court will intervene to create a parenting plan if parents are unable to agree on their own or through mediation. However, it is typically better for parents to maintain control over the procedure and create a strategy that addresses the particular requirements of their family.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Custody arrangements in Texas can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the initial custody order was issued. Recognizing that life is dynamic and circumstances can change in an instant, the court allows for modifications to ensure the child's best interests are upheld. Modifications are not granted towards minor or temporary changes, however, in the case of substantial changes that significantly affect the child or the parent's ability to fulfill their roles, those amendments will be deemed necessary.

Examples of substantial changes that may warrant a modification include a parent's job relocation, remarriage, substance abuse or criminal activity, a change in the child's needs or schedule, and instances of domestic violence or abuse. The court considers modifications and determines if they are in the child's best interests and will advance their stability and well-being.

To initiate a custody modification, the parent seeking the change must file a petition with the court. It is crucial to provide compelling evidence and demonstrate how the proposed modification will serve the child's best interests. To traverse the legal system and make sure that all appropriate procedures are taken, it is strongly advised that you speak with a family law attorney.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Comprehending the nuances of Texas' complex child custody rules might be challenging.

It is crucial to seek legal advice from a skilled family law attorney because the stakes are so high. An expert lawyer can offer insightful advice, assist with navigating the legal system, and most importantly make sure that your rights and your child's best interests are safeguarded.

A family law attorney can assist you in understanding the specific factors that the court considers when determining child custody arrangements. Luckily they can also help you to create a parenting schedule. This schedule will be based on your child's unique needs and preferences if there are any. 

If you think it's essential to change the custody arrangements, a lawyer can assist you with gathering the facts you need, filing the petition, and persuasively arguing your case.

A family law attorney can also offer guidance on alternative dispute resolution procedures like mediation or bargaining, which can assist parents in finding common ground and settling disputes out of court. A lawyer at your side can help the process go more smoothly and make sure you are heard.

Final Words

Child custody laws in Texas are meticulously designed to prioritize the best interests of the child. Through the concept of Joint Managing Conservatorship Texas recognizes the importance of shared responsibilities in raising a child, even if one parent has primary physical custody. The collaborative approach of creating a parenting plan empowers parents to tailor arrangements that meet their child's specific needs. In cases where modifications are necessary due to changing circumstances, the court allows for adjustments to ensure continued healthy growth. Parents who choose to take help from a family law attorney can successfully negotiate the complex legal system and protect their child's well-being.

Thus, understanding the child custody laws in Texas is imperative for parents going through a divorce or facing custody disputes. By prioritizing the child's best interests, embracing joint managing conservatorship, creating a thoughtful parenting plan, and seeking legal guidance, parents can navigate the process with clarity and compassion. As parents, it is your responsibility to think about your child's welfare and make decisions that will positively affect your child.

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