Any divorce that involves children must deal with the issue of hammering out child custody arrangements, which is arguably the most difficult component of an already difficult process. Child custody is a complicated matter, and many divorcing parents become distracted by the child-custody myths that are out there. If you can separate the truth from the myths when it comes to your child custody arrangements, it may provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have the information you need to make well-informed decisions.
The State of Texas does not address custody in the same terms that you may think about the issue, and parents are not awarded full custody. Custody in Texas is based on conservatorship and possession and access. Conservatorship relates to whether one or both of you will be making important decisions on your children’s behalves, including:
- Decisions related to education
- Decisions related to religious upbringing
- Decisions related to medical care
Possession and access relate to which parent the children will live with primarily and which parent will have a visitation schedule (or if possession and access will be shared more equally). The State of Texas begins with the presumption that it is in children’s best interests to spend time with both parents and for both parents to participate in raising them (unless a compelling reason interferes with this presumption).
Child Support and Visitation
Many parents are under the mistaken belief that if an ex does not pay child support, then visitation can be withheld. This, however, is not the case. Child support and visitation are completely separate issues that cannot be used as an interchangeable means of retaliation. If your children’s other parent fails to pay child support or withholds visitation, you have legal recourse to rectify the situation, but retaliation could leave you in contempt of court.
Primary Custody Preference
Many people believe that the state’s preference is to give the mother primary custody – the parent with whom the children live primarily – but this is not true. Texas does not factor the parent’s sex into the decision making process. Instead, the decision is based solely on the children’s best interests. In general, more mothers do have primary custody, but this is because mothers tend to be the primary caregivers throughout the marriage. This does not, however, mean that a father cannot be granted primary custody.