Child Custody in Texas: Your Questions Answered

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Issues related to child custody arise frequently in Texas and throughout the nation. For example, if you are going through a divorce that involves children, a primary concern is resolving the matter of your child custody arrangements.

Child custody laws are complex, and every case is determined in accordance with the unique circumstances involved. The one constant when it comes to child custody in the State of Texas is that courts always resolve child custody cases in accordance with the children’s best interests.

If you have questions or concerns about child custody, the first order of business is reaching out to an experienced Killeen child custody attorney.

When do child custody cases arise?

Many people believe that child custody is a matter that relates only to divorce, and this is a major application, but child custody law also applies in all the following circumstances:

There are many situations in which parents can face child custody issues, and having professional legal counsel in your corner is always in your best interest. If any of these situations are sounding familiar, contact a child custody lawyer right away.

How does child custody work in Texas?

Texas addresses the matter of a couple’s child custody arrangements in terms of both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody resolves the matter of when the children are with one parent or the other. Legal custody, on the other hand, establishes who will be making the important decisions that parents are called upon to make for their children.

What does legal custody entail?

All parents have important responsibilities regarding their children, and a big part of this is making the primary decisions that determine their upbringing. All of the following kinds of decisions are involved:

  • Decisions related to where your children make their primary home

  • Decisions related to your children’s schooling

  • Decisions related to your children’s healthcare

  • Decisions related to your children’s participation in extracurricular activities and travel

  • Decisions related to your children’s religious education

These decisions set the framework for your children’s lives and, as such, are very important matters that the law takes seriously.

Can legal custody be sole?

Yes, sometimes, only one parent is awarded legal custody, which means that this parent is responsible for making the necessary big-picture decisions independently. Often, however, legal custody is shared by both parents, which can take any of the following forms:

  • Both parents make these important decisions between themselves – much like they did when they were together.

  • While both parents make these decisions together, one of them is awarded the ability to break a tie if their focused efforts to reach a consensus fail.

  • Each parent is responsible for making decisions in specific categories on their own. For example, one parent may handle decisions related to health care and extracurriculars while the other is responsible for those involving schooling and religious upbringing.

It is important to recognize that – regardless of how legal custody is resolved – the parent who has the children at any given time is responsible for making the everyday decisions that arise. And in an emergency, the available parent is tasked with making the decisions that need to be made.

If you’re worried about losing the parental rights you value, contact a skilled child custody attorney right away. He or she can help you defend your parental rights and stay involved in your children’s lives.

What does physical custody entail?

Physical custody determines what you may think of as visitation – or when your children are with you and when they are with their other parent. Texas issues parenting time schedules that address this important determination, and they can take many different forms.

If you and your children’s other parent can create a schedule that you both agree to, your options are nearly limitless, but if you need the court to get involved in the matter, one of its standard parenting time schedules will likely be issued.

Can physical custody be sole?

As mentioned, Texas courts resolve child custody cases from the perspective of the children’s best interests. They have determined that, according to prevailing wisdom in the vast majority of situations, children’s best interests are best served when they continue deepening their relationship with both parents by continuing to spend time with both.

As such, sole custody in which only one parent is awarded parenting time is reserved for only those situations in which the other parent is deemed unfit for one important reason or another.

One parent can, however, become the primary custodial parent who has the children for the majority of overnights. The other option is each parent to have a parenting time schedule that affords them a relatively equal number of overnights with their shared children.

Even when one parent’s parenting time schedule is extremely limited, the court will afford them some time with the children – even if supervision is required.

What factors guide child custody determinations in Texas?

Because Texas courts base child custody terms on the best interests of the involved children, they employ a sequence of best-interest factors that guide their determinations, including the following considerations:

  • Each parent’s preference

  • Each child’s preference, if deemed appropriate in the case at hand

  • Each parent’s participation in raising the children up to this point

  • Each parent’s commitment to continue supporting the other’s ongoing relationship with the children

  • Each parent’s overall physical and mental health

  • The children’s needs, including any special needs any of them may have

  • Each parent’s ability to care for the children and adequately address their needs

  • Each parent’s ability to provide the children with a stable home

  • Any threats to the children’s safety, such as any history of domestic abuse or child negligence or abuse

  • Each parent’s ability to provide the children with community and support, such as with the involvement of grandparents and other close family members

  • The degree to which preserving the status quo is deemed beneficial

  • Any other factors deemed important in the case at hand

If you aren’t sure which factors will play a part in your child custody case, reach out to a knowledgeable child custody lawyer. He or she can discuss your unique situation and help you understand how things will likely play out in court.

What is meant by preserving the status quo?

Texas courts recognize that divorce is hard on children and tends to disrupt their lives in many ways. As such, courts carefully consider how well the children’s current living situation (in terms of their primary home, schooling, and community) serves them. This is called the status quo. When it’s serving the children well, Texas courts will do what they can to preserve it.

For example, if the children are living primarily with you in the family home while your divorce is pending, and they are thriving, this fact could play a significant role in how child custody is determined in your case.

What is the first step I should take when facing a child custody concern?

Because child custody is a primary component of your parental rights and guides your ongoing relationship with your children, one of the most important first steps you can take is to consult with a seasoned child custody attorney early in the process. From here, you will likely need to file a motion with the court, which sets the course for your case.

The same is true if your children’s other parent files a child custody motion – having legal guidance is the best path forward. Child custody cases involve complicated legal maneuverings that are best left in the capable hands of your attorney.

If we evenly split our overnights with the kids, will child support still be ordered?

Child support in Texas is calculated in accordance with a wide range of factors that focus on the involved children’s best interests.

The idea behind child support is to balance the responsibility of financial support between both parents – in an attempt to provide the children with the kind of financial support they would have enjoyed if their parents were still together, to the degree possible.

As such, even if you and your ex split your overnights with the kids evenly, the parent who is the higher earner will likely make child support payments.

What factors guide child support orders in Texas?

While each parent’s earnings play a primary role in child support orders in Texas, all the following factors are also considered:

  • The age of each child

  • Each child’s needs, including any special needs that may require special care

  • The amount of parenting time each parent is responsible for

  • The cost of educating the children

  • The cost of childcare

  • Whether alimony plays a role in the equation

  • The matter of health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses

  • The cost of traveling in relation to the parenting time schedule

  • Any other factors the court considers relevant to the case at hand

How will my ex’s choosing not to work affect my child support payments?

When a parent chooses to earn less than they are capable of earning or chooses not to work at all – as a means of reducing child custody payments – the court takes action.

In such situations, the court can impute income for the underearning parent, which involves establishing an amount that the parent could and should be earning and using this amount to calculate their child support obligation.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is essential that you contact a child custody lawyer right away. He or she can make sure that you’re getting the child support payments you need to support your children.

Can I refuse visitation if my ex fails to pay child support?

Many parents believe they are justified in refusing visitation when the other parent fails to meet their child support obligation. This idea is a myth that needs to be dispelled.

Texas courts focus on the best interests of the children in relation to both parenting time and child support, and in the court’s view on the matter, both of the following are true:

  • Children’s best interests are served when they are allowed to spend time with both parents.

  • Children’s best interests are served when they receive the child support to which they are entitled.

In other words, while child support is critical to supporting your children’s best interests, so, too, is maintaining the applicable parenting time schedule. As such, a failure in one arena cannot be rectified by a failure in the other.

Parenting time and child support are completely different matters. If you are facing a problem with one or the other, it is time to take the matter up with the court instead of trying to resolve it with a makeshift response of your own.

Do grandparents have a right to visitation in Texas?

Generally, grandparents have no legal right to visitation in the State of Texas unless the following very specific requirements are met:

  • At least one of the children’s biological parents retains custody.

  • The grandparent can show that denying them visitation is not in the children’s best interests – thus overcoming the presumption that the parent denying visitation is acting in the children’s best interests.

  • The grandparent seeking visitation is the parent of one of the grandchildren’s parents who has been deemed incompetent by the court, has been incarcerated for at least three months prior to the filing, is no longer living, or does not have actual or legal possession of the children.

Look to an Experienced Child Custody Attorney for the Help You Need Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an imposing child custody attorney who fully understands the significance of your child custody concerns and focuses his impressive practice on skillfully advocating for the parental rights of clients like you.

Your case is important to you and your children, so please do not wait to reach out and contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information about what we can do to help you today.